There's a reason they call it the Idiot Box, folks. TV — despite being literally the best thing to ever happen to us — is making us dumber and less understanding of the people around us. (But I can't give it up! It's my one true love!)
New research out of Ohio State University shows that preschoolers who either have a television in their bedroom or live in a home where the TV is constantly on as background noise struggle more with "theory of the mind" — a.k.a the ability to read other people and understand that not everybody shares your feelings or point-of-view. Developing theory of the mind is a huge part of the average person's maturation process as it gives people the ability to empathize and care about things that don't immediately effect them.
The study was conducted using a group of 107 children between the ages of 3 and 6. Parents were questioned about their children's TV habits (how many hours of TV they watched, where the TV set was located, what networks they watched) and then the kids were subjected to various tests meant to reveal their understanding of other people's thoughts and feelings.
From the Pacific Standard:
The results: "Both background television exposure and having a TV in the child's bedroom were significantly and negatively related" to these all-important abilities. The researchers suggest these may be markers of household where "parents are relatively less engaged with their children," giving the kids fewer opportunities for intellectual and emotional growth. In addition, television may present kids "with unidimensional portraits of characters and situations that lack depth and require only superficial processing to understand," they write.
So, yeah. You probably should not let your toddler have a TV in their bedroom (duh?). That said, some television networks had a more positive effect on kids than others. Surprisingly, ABC Family was "significantly and positively related to performance."
Ha, jokes on all you idiots who made fun of me for watching 6 hours of Twisted this weekend.
Yes, television rots your brain [Pacific Standard]