Daniel R. Anderson, Heather J. Lavigne, and Katherine G. Hanson
Watching and understanding television requires the development of attention, media decoding, and narrative comprehension skills. Children under the age of two years have difficulty using televised information to effectively guide their behavior, a phenomenon known as the video deficit. Beyond the infant and toddler years, however, television can become a powerful tool for education. Programs designed with specific educational objectives and research-based curricula promote academic achievement and prosocial behavior. Educational television is an important asset for children's informal learning during the preschool years and beyond.
Even before television was first broadcast as a mass medium, commentators expressed hopes and fears about its impact on education. On the one hand, TV could be a window to the world, and on the other, it could be an endless distraction from productive and sustained learning. This debate has hardly waned more than 60 years later – in fact, it has been extended to other electronic media. In this chapter, we review the current state of understanding about children's learning from television. Our review here is limited: we only consider the impact of television programs, such as Sesame Street or Blue's Clues, that intentionally incorporate a curriculum in ...