Gifted Children and Television (page 2)
Gifted children learn to speak and develop sophisticated language patterns well in advance of their age-mates. Their verbal and reading fluency and comprehension improve rapidly (Cohn, Cohn, & Kanevsky, 1988). Does this mean that they might also be capable of watching television at any earlier age than their peers?
Television viewing does not begin at an earlier age. However, gifted preschool children have been found to watch significantly more hours of television per week than nongifted children (Abelman & Rogers, 1987). Because of their ability to coordinate and comprehend television information, most of their viewing is active--that is, gifted children are less likely to sit in front of the television set mesmerized and confused by programming and are more likely to be involved in program content and story line.
Gifted children exhibit a high level of complexity and abstraction in their questions and responses, which reflects phenomenal perceptiveness and sensitivity to relationships and patterns of knowledge (Barbe & Renzulli, 1981; Roedell, Jackson, & Robinson, 1980).
The research suggests that gifted children of all ages are typically attracted to more complex forms of programming, which offer room for intellectual growth, a challenge in terms of story line and plot development, and more interesting and sophisti-cated characterizations.
Gifted children have been found to be efficient at identifying the selling strategies in child and adult-oriented advertising, which makes these commercials less persuasive (Sprafkin, Gadow, & Abelman, 1992).
Gifted children have a passion for learning and absorbing knowledge (Scruggs & Cohn, 1983; Sternberg & Davidson, 1985, 1986). What role does a readily available, easily accessible, and non-threatening source of social information, such as television, play in their socialization? Does it lead to an attraction to more sophisticated, adult-oriented programming for which they are not emotionally prepared?
Gifted children are bored by similar plots, program reruns, and standardized program formats (Abelman, 1986). Educational programming is typically preferred over pure entertainment fare, but gifted children rapidly outgrow many of the informational programs still being watched by same-age peers. The paucity of available quality children's programs on broadcast television channels typically results in the consumption of adult-oriented programming.
Recent content analyses of commercial television's primetime programming indicate that children in starring or title roles are hightly under represented (Abelman, 1992). Depictions of gifted children in primetrime are even rarer, suggesting that limited role models exist in popular programming. Unfortunately, gifted teens are poorly portrayed on commercial televison.
Research suggest that parents of gifted children are infrequent mediators of television viewing. However, when direct mediation does occur, it tends to be highly focused, purposeful, evaluative, and participatory (Abelman, 1987a, 1991a). Parents generally believe that television can have both a positive and negative cognitive-level effect on their gifted children. Special affective and social needs are also of great concern to parents, and may suggest to them a special vulnerability to attractive televised portrayals.
Television viewing is a learned behavior that extends and reinforces basic comprehension skills (i.e., determining theme, utilizing context cues, forming sequence, and eliciting an awareness of cause and effect), and provides ample avenue for abstract and critical thinking (Bryant & Anderson, 1983). There exists a growing number of "television literacy or critical viewing/thinking skills" curricula available on the market that incorporate television literacy into teaching agendas or interface such programs with more traditional curriculum areas. These have proven to be especially effective in gifted education (Abelman, 1987b, 1991b; Abelman & Courtright, 1983).
--Robert Abelman, Ph.D, Cleveland State University. "Some Children Under Some Conditions: TV and the High Potential Kid," The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, December, 1992.
Young Children and TV
Children love to watch TV at a very early age. For the first year, kids tend to look at a set only sporadically. After that, according to researchers, they will watch only 10 or 15 percent of the time. At this age, says Dan Anderson, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts, "they are mostly fascinated by the box. A one year old will look equally at a regular television program or random computer generated shapes and sounds." At the age of two, television can interfere with other, more necessary learning processes. Because toddlers don't understand that a TV show is a production that happens elsewhere, they are often disoriented by its form; the changes of angle, cuts in time, the visual effects like zooming in and out. Toddlers who watch a lot of TV are also less likely to engage in fantasy.
Programming for young children is getting better, but most of the better shows are on video, cable or public television. The general lesson for preschool years is "what they watch" versus how much time they watch.
--NEWSWEEK, Spring/Summer 1997. $3.50
What Parents Can Do About TV?
Here are some ways to help keep your child's television viewing in balance:
- Set limits on the amount of TV your child watches. Be firm. Limit children's TV viewing to an hour or two daily. Before children watch television, they should do their homework and chores, but TV should not be used as a reward. Helping children find things to do instead of watching TV, such as sports, hobbies, or family activities, can make setting limits easier. If TV causes arguments or fights, simply unplug it for a while. Children can be creative when TV is not taking up all their time and attention.
- Help your child plan TV viewing in advance. Choose programs from TV listings at the beginning of each week. Keep copies of the family viewing schedule where everyone can see them (by the TV, in the bedroom, or on the refrigerator) as reminders.
- Know what television shows your child watches. Watch TV with your child. When programs show sex, alcohol or drug abuse, or violence, talk about what you see. Help your children understand what they are watching. This is a good time to reinforce your own family values.
- Do not permit TV watching during dinner. Dinner is often the only time that families are able to be together during the day. If the TV set is on at the same time, it will get in the way of talking to each other.
- Do not allow your children to have a TV set in their bedroom. Not only will they tend to watch more TV, but they will probably stay in his room away from other family members. When children watch TV in their bedrooms, it is harder for parents to guide their program choices. They may get less sleep, causing them to be tired at school the next day.
- Keep books, magazines and board games in the TV room. Visit the library often with your children. Help them select books to read instead of always watching TV.
- Set an example of behavior you wish to instill. If you want your children to read more, that is what you should do. If you would like for them to go outdoors for physical activity, make it a part of an enjoyable family exercise program.
- Ask local television stations to schedule educational programs for children. Tell station managers not only what you do not like, but what you enjoy. Good programs often don't get the best ratings, but letters of praise can help keep them on the air. One group working hard to improve TV programming for children is:
Action for Children's Television
(20 University Road, Cambridge, MA 02138)
--Adapted from Caring for Your School-Age Child; Ages 5 to 12, ©American Academy of Pediatrics (Bantam, 1995).
Reprinted with the permission of the American Association for Gifted Children. © 1999 AAGC
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