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TV-savvy at one

Jan. 21: The behaviour of children as young as one can be influenced by what they see on television, according to a study.

Psychologists have shown that the likes and dislikes of 12-month-old babies can be manipulated by the makers of programmes or advertisements.

Describing the findings as “remarkable”, the study’s authors urged parents to take care what type of programmes they watched in front of babies.

The debate over the impact of violence and advertisements on youngsters has usually concentrated on toddlers and school children. The new finding suggests that parents may need to be on their guard far earlier.

“Children as young as 12 months are making decisions based on the emotional reactions of adults around them,” said Donna Mumme, a psychologist at Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts, who led the research.

“It turns out that they can also use emotional information they pick up from television. This means adults might want to think twice before they speak in a harsh or surprising tone or let an infant see television programmes meant for an older person.”

But the tests found that television had little impact on the behaviour of 10-month-old babies.

Mumme and colleagues filmed an actress responding to a range of different objects, including a blue ball, a yellow hose attachment and a red spiral letter holder. The woman ignored some objects, reacted positively to others and showed signs of disapproval in front of the rest.

Initially the babies were happy to play with all the objects. But once they had watched the video, they copied the actress’ reactions, Mumme and colleagues report in the journal Child Development.

“What is remarkable is that one-year-olds paid attention to televised stimuli and used information presented on television to guide their subsequent interactions,” said Mumme.

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