January 29th, 2007

Television Can Harm Learning, Finds Study

The Guardian (UK)

The use of television in the classroom can cause children to under perform academically, a psychologist warned today.

Aric Sigman carried out a study of how top independent schools used television compared with state schools and found that where money is no object teachers use TV less.

Dr Sigman, who is due to present his findings to ministers in April, said: “One of the so-called unfair privileges money and breeding can buy is the right of a child to be deprived of television in education.”

His study included junior and senior schools, such as Westminster, St Paul’s, Bedales, Harrow, Winchester and Gordonstoun.

Dr Sigman found the attitudes of teachers were very different, with most public schools classifying television as a recreational pastime rather than an educational tool.

Dr Sigman added: “Private educational institutions seem to consider television as an entertaining, but ultimately less effective method of learning. And other screen technology is considered a supplementary tool, introduced and used judiciously.”

He commented: “As state education cultivates a growing belief in screen technologies in learning, this analysis offers an oblique way to clarify how, when money and resources are no object, educational television stands up against more traditional learning methods.

“Moreover, as the average British adolescent is spending 55% of their waking lives in front of a screen outside the classroom we need to ask whether schools should be adding to this.”

Dr Sigman’s study also claims excessive television viewing by children under three can lead to problems with mathematic ability, reading and comprehension in later childhood.

He is due to address the Children and the media conference at the Houses of Parliament on April 23.

∑ Dr Sigman’s book, Remotely Controlled: how television is damaging our lives, is published by Vermilion, priced £7.99 on February 1.

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