How Background TV Affects Child Play & Development June 03 2013

Nina McKenzie, a Specialist Speech & Language Therapist, has been looking at the affect background TV noise has on young children's play and development.

"A study looked at the effects of background noise from a TV while young children were engaged in play in the same room.  50 Children, aged 1-3years, were individually exposed to 30 minutes of play with background TV and then 30 minutes without. Although the study was not able to measure long term effects the following points were highlighted:

  • Play is related to healthy cognitive, language and social development.  It provides opportunities for children to to refine motor skills, explore the physical properties of objects, learn principles of cause & effect and engage in problem solving.
  • Parent-child interaction was reduced when the parent was paying attention to or distracted by the TV.  Therefore opportunities for language stimulation through play were missed.
  • Focussed attention on play on play was reduced, as children were constantly interrupting play sequences to shift their focus of attention to the TV.
  • Play episodes were shorter.


Effects of background TV on play found in this study were small, i.e. overall reduction in focussed attention and maturity of play was only affected in a limited way. However, the cumulative impact of large amounts of exposure may place a child at risk for reduced cognitive skills, difficulties with language development and deficits in developing and refining attention skills."

Nina runs the Saturday Speech Therapy Clinic, based in Buckinghamshire, UK



Schmidt ME, Pempek TA, Kirkorian HL, Lund AF, Anderson DR.
The effects of background television on the toy play behavior of very young children
Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003, USA.