Can children learn writing and reading from television?


Before my daughter was born, I decided we would not watch T.V. at all. I heard all about the studies that said T.V. was bad for kids, that there’s no real interaction, that it may affect their ability to pay attention, and other scare tactics.

For us, television has been a sanity saver. There are times when I can’t be my daughter’s only source of entertainment, and we both need a break from each other. My daughter gets to visit places she’ll never see otherwise, she gets to see all kinds of people, and she’s introduced to lots of different concepts. For instance, she’s never seen snow in real life. The other day I pointed out that there was snow on the mountains, and she said, “I can ski on that snow!” I don’t ski. I don’t talk about skiing. She learned that on television.

I tape record educational shows for us to watch together, and we interact with them together sometimes. Our huge favorite is The Backyardigans. While there isn’t a teaching curriculum, she (and I) love to sing and dance together. When she was younger we watched Teletubbies.

Why do I mention this here? Lately I’ve found some shows on PBS that are wonderful programs that teach reading and writing. My educational favorite is Super Why. My daughter watches them read words, sound out letters and letter blends, write letters, and sing the alphabet. I find her telling me, “S. Sssssssss,” or “Tuh Tuh. T!” I love how she’s getting introduced to phonics. She answers their word questions, sings the alphabet with them, and pays close attention when they’re spelling out words.

While I’m still working at home without daycare, television is also a way for me to get a few minutes to concentrate on work.

So if you’re looking for another way to teach your toddler reading and writing, or if you’re a work-at-home parent, maybe rethink the whole television ban idea. Television might not be so bad after all, when used wisely.

18 Responses to “Can children learn writing and reading from television?”

  1. Crowdstorm says:

    My family didn’t have a TV when I was growing up (I’m 22 now) and I’m not sure how my mother coped! I have a small niece who is adorable but very demanding, sometimes the TV is the only way to get some peace! There are some really good educational shows out there so I don’t think people should feel guilty about letting their child watch a little TV.

  2. I am a television child. After my dad died the TV was always on (I was 8 when he died). But even before he died I remember watching Sesame Street and even the news.

    I have a hard time concentrating on a single task for any length of time. I cannot stand NOT having the TV on at home. In fact we have four TVs. Sometimes I’ll have three on at once so that when I go from one room to another the TV will be on.

    It’s sad. I hope that when we have children I will be able to turn the blasted thing off for long periods of time.

    As for teaching…yes I do think that some shows can provide value to kids. Perhaps DVDs are best in order to avoid commercials though. Because even educational programs seem to have vapid, useless “kid” oriented commercials trying to get kids to beg for ‘stuff’ that they don’t need.

    castocreations’s last blog post..Beautiful Sunday Morning

  3. Matt says:

    TV is a medium like anything else. It can be used to teach or to corrupt. You just have to raise your kids to know when they’re being taught, being indoctrinated, or just wasting time. If you do that then whether they’re watching TV, on the internet, playing games, or with their friends you know they’ll be in good shape.

    Matt’s last blog post..Jesus Saves Personal Bank

  4. You make a great point – parents today NEED television as a virtual babysitter to get things done!. It’s great that you screen things properly (every parent should, of course) and join in when possible. Dancing during Backyardigans is great bonding and good exercise!

    The Baby Einstein videos took a PR hit last year when studies showed they didn’t make kids any smarter, but I still don’t think they are bad programs. Plus, there’s no telling how those kids would have progressed with those videos compared to something else.

    Joyful Digesting’s last blog post..Parents: Pack a Meal That Won’t Upset Junior’s Tummy!

  5. green says:

    I think it’s in moderation. Too much reading can be bad for a child (lead to bad vision) and the same with too much tv.

    Regardless of the medium through which children learn and all the papers written on this subject, it comes out to how the parents raise the child and hopefully leads them to a path of less destruction!

  6. Georga says:

    I too am a freelance writer who works at home, only I have 7 kids who I also homeschool. There are just some days it’s safer for everyone in the house to turn on Sponge Bob for the day and leave it. It’s the only thing that holds my autistic son’s attention for more than two minutes. I feel my brain cells atrophying while it’s on but at the same time it saves my sanity and prevents his siblings from threatening to bury him in the back yard (they have already started digging a hole.)

  7. i don’t think i can live without a TV :p anyways, there are lots of educational program nowadays so kids just really needed proper guidance.

    bliss weddings’s last blog post..Kinchan & Zaida: Filipiniana Theme Wedding

  8. NathanKP says:

    My family did not watch very much TV at all when I was young.

    Fortunately I grew up with a love of reading that has benefited me greatly. I only hope more parents also choose to limit their children’s TV watching.

    NathanKP –

    NathanKP’s last blog post..“Airborn” by Kenneth Oppel

  9. LCD says:

    I think you’re taking the right approach. There is a ton of educational programing out there, especially on some of the specialty cable networks. The key here isn’t whether tv is bad or not, but whether parents are involved in interacting with their children.

  10. I homeschool my children as well. I make sure to mix in educational programming and regular kids programs. Spongebob is their favorite too. Georga, I know how you feel as my son is also Autistic, but since taking him off milk and other things, he focuses much better on just about everything now.

  11. skip says:

    children can learn useful stuff from television, and it is convenient if you are not around with them. however, you do have to watch out for what program she’s watching. some may be a bad influence on her.

  12. I wholeheartedly agree. I think that TV is turn out fine. Just don’t let the TV raise em.

  13. My children and I don’t usually went out. We are always at home their past time is watching Tv I don’t think watching tv is bad and good. If depends on how parents guide their children with what they watch and you are always there to explain what they are watching.

    Shelley Haggert’s last blog post..Good Food Habits

  14. My wife and I have had many conversations about reading and television. We have a beautiful little girl that loves books and she loves us to read to hear. Over the past couple years my wife and I feel that the T.V. is not completely evil and it isn’t turning our daughters brain into mush. We do however feel that our daughter does need to read more then watch T.V. This forces us to take time out and sit down with her and work with her. But during the day we think there are great programs out there that she can watch. I guess the bottom line is that it’s important to make sure we are getting that reading in!

  15. I’ve heard that the reason why TV was a bad idea for young kids 0-5 years of age, is because the fast images that is being flashed across the goggle box will over-stimulate the child’s mind and could possibly cause attention deficit when they start learning in their later years. Now i must say that i am not a 100% convinced as there are other slower paced programs like “Barney” (though i cannot understand why kids love this purple dinosaur), that are educational in nature. I think parents will need to be careful with what their kids watch on television and not ban it altogether. For example, my 3 year old learned about the different animals and how they sound like from TV as well.


  16. I agree! If television is filtered correctly by the parents it can teach marvelous things to their children. But if you just site the children in front of the tv with the remote in its hands for a couple of hours… Its not a great education. I think that it must be supervised a little.

  17. I totally agree! With the right parental control, tv and games can be very good ways of learning new things.

  18. Kari says:

    I was a bit like you in the beginning in that I was anti TV, however, I now feel that some TV is a good thing. It gives your child exposure to other cultures and can help foster tolerance and acceptance. There are some great education shows on TV and we also have a few educational DVD’s that our boy just loves watching.