February 22, 2006

Random Data Shows TV's Just Fine For Kids

And by "TV" they mean "Milton Berle," and by "fine," they mean "didn't lower their performance on standardized high school tests forty years ago."

In order to get a control group of kids who actually didn't watch television, two University of Chicago economists [and really, is there any other kind?] went back to the market-by-market rollout of television in the 50's, and then they tracked the grades for that first TV generation. Their conclusion? No harm, no foul! Let the kids watch The Wiggles all he wants! Seriously.

My conclusion? If the phone ever rings at 5AM at those economists' house, it's not Stockholm with some Big News; it's the Freakonomics guys demanding their schtick back.\

The Benefits of Bozo: Proof that TV doesn't harm kids. "The Wiggles: What are they doing to your kid's brain?" [slate.com, never mind that absolutely none of these headline/captions is supported by the article itself, much less the findings.]


My husband just found a blurb in a parenting web site about the relationship between a behaviour measure indicating a child has attention deficit disorder at age 7 and television viewing at 1(!) and 3 years old. I thought I should check out the original piece, its available in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The statistics they use are fine (they control for other environmental factors) and they don't overinterpret the data (they never say one causes the other, they say they covary and that more research on causality is warranted).

It makes one think about the whole thing anyway, and wonder what do economists from U of Chicago smoke in the morning before going to work.

{thanks for the link. the first actual data about how much media kids consume and in what way was just released by the Kaiser Family Foundation last December. It sounds to me like this Bozo study was cooked up around the Ikea table of some postdocs desperate for a permanent teaching gig. -ed.]


Who provided the funding for that study? SpongeBob?

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