Programs for Education, Like Dora, Yield Positive Results

Over the years, screen media content directed towards infants and toddlers has drastically become more common. Not only are these appearing in homes, but you can also find them being played at early learning centers and daycares. The main influential sources of early language development are parents, siblings, other children and adults who may live in the household, and the environmental sounds in which the infant is exposed to. The purpose of educational programs through media screening is to surround the visual, verbal, and visual/verbal content that can be delivered through multiple devices (Linebarger & Vaala, 2010).

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These devices are intended to play a major role in infant and toddler language development. However, is it effective?

In order to understand how screen media influences infant and toddler language development, it is important to first understand that not all screen media are the same and can be diverse when it comes to its intended audience. There are forms of media that range from being infant-directed, child-directed, or adult-directed.

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The child-directed and infant-directed screen media often include claims of educational or developmental benefit. These are the two that will be focused on the most. When examining media and language development, there is an ecological framework proposed by Bronfenbrenner that claims a child’s individual development cannot be separated from the child’s immediate social networks or the historical or social factors that make up the child. Instead of looking at contextual, individual, and societal factors, researchers have been looking at how these may co-vary with both predictor and outcome to explain observed relations (Linebarger & Vaala, 2010).

As infants’ and toddlers’ experiences and abilities grow, their vocabulary and conceptual knowledge increases as well. As this form of developed knowledge deepens, it makes it easier for a child to process content and allows them to learn more words from screen media. It has been found that larger amounts word learning from televised presentations occur more often among infants with similar age who have larger existing vocabularies. This relates back to Bronfenbrenner's claim about the child’s environment (surroundings, history, etc.) and how it can tie into a child’s development. It has also been found that young infants with large vocabularies are able to learn phonetically similar novel words more successful than their same-age peers with smaller vocabularies (Linebarger & Vaala, 2010).

There are differences in the ways that environmental influences, including television, affect experience and learning. The environment in which a child is raised has an effect on the child’s stimulation of the brain. For example, when looking at experience expectancies in brain growth, it depends on ordinary experiences that is expected of the brain such as hearing languages and interacting with other people. However, when adding the additional viewing of television, there is an increase in experience-dependent brain growth since there are additional learning experiences. As children encounter more and more experience with television, their abilities to understand its messages and translate those messages into some form of learning increase as well.

Researchers Deborah Linebarger and Dale Walker (2016) found that infants begin to have an interest in television fairly early in life, around 9 months of age. They also found that relationships between media screening and language development outcomes were most recognizable for individual programs when compared with how often the programs were viewed or if the programs had broader content categories. These findings helped to describe the relationships between viewing media and language development and showed the result of in-home experiences where television use is a more common routine and available during regular periods of time (Linebarger & Walker, 2016). This again directs us to environmental experiences and how they influence developmental outcomes.

Television programs designed for infants and toddlers focus on multiple forms of academic and social skills to help prepare children for entering school. These programs are designed with a specific goal and can be effective with long-lasting results. Research findings that address the benefits of exposure to high quality, age-appropriate, educational media offers producers of child-directed media an important opportunity to emphasize on the time that children spend using these media. Parents can do things to increase positive effects of media and minimize negative ones. One way is by identifying different productions of programs that encourage learning and development and watching age-appropriate, educational programs with their children (Kirkorian, Wartella, & Anderson, 2008).

Program features that encourage infants and toddlers to learn the written word at the same time as they are learning the spoken word are successful when helping a child learn to read as well. The child stays engaged with programs that offer both audio and visual productions because they include cuts, fades, dissolves, and special effects as well as sound effects, music, and speech. Other formal features in these educational programs are also involved with multiple levels of character action, change, and the pacing of content presentation. For example, types of infant-directed media are up to quick speed, contain several camera cuts and multiple visual special effects (Linebarger & Vaala, 2010).

One of the most effective forms of screen media are programs that support reading and language development such as Arthur, Clifford, and Dragon Tales. There are many advantages to shows that tell stories because they have a powerful narrator, are appealing to the eye, they give children the opportunity to hear vocabulary words with their definitions, and they see different character interactions. In particular, storybook-type programs have been found to be most effective for comprehension skills and later literacy skills. Children who read story books more often with their parents may prefer these types of televised programs because they will appear to be more similar to their books. These programs also are found to promote expressive language production and vocabulary learning considering they use strategies such as speaking directly to the viewer, providing long pauses that give the child opportunities to respond, and defining vocabulary words when they are being used (Linebarger & Walker, 2016).

Toddlers have been found to have a positive relationship between televised stimuli and word learning. It has been found that toddlers have been able to learn novel words from a televised program better when the model uses strategies known to support language learning in live situations (Linebarger & Walker, 2016). These strategies include vocals over the televised program that help maintain the child’s attention and also by labeling objects on the screen. An example of this is programs such as Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer, where the shows provide multiple onscreen characters who speak directly to the child, constantly encourage participation, labeling objects, and allowing several opportunities to respond. This positively relates to expressive language production and vocabulary in toddlers.

Televised programs such as Teletubbies, however, have been found to negatively be related to vocabulary acquisition and expressive language use. This is because this type of show does not use and language or words since the characters do not speak full sentences and is simply for entertainment. This show would be categorized as one that does not have any educational purposes. Researchers have found that children were unable to learn novel words when inserted into a Teletubbies clip, claiming that it was too difficult and complex to learn words through the various forms of music, visual stimulation, and language (Linebarger & Walker, 2016).

There are several positive outcomes related to media screening and child development. These outcomes are beneficial in the long run when it comes to being ready for preschool. For example, preschoolers who view Sesame Street have higher levels of school readiness than those who do not (Kirkorian, Wartella, & Anderson, 2008). This is due to those television programs that are designed for young children and focus on a variety of academic and social skills to help prepare children for school in the future. These programs are noted in a separate category than topics that involve violence or non educational programs.

The debate on whether or not videos claiming to teach babies to read and learn language are really successful is dependent on the child’s environment. An environment affects the child’s interactions in how much they see, hear, or watch television in general. If a parent reads story books to a child more often than not, this affects how much attention a child will pay to an educational program and whether or not they may learn from it. The child will also learn more if they have a large previous knowledge of vocabulary words. Educational televised programs can be majorly beneficial for a child in the long run and with starting preschool if they child has a good understanding of them.

Throughout writing this paper, I have gained a much better insight about television programs and whether or not they may be educational for infants and toddlers. Due to my research, I am able to agree that the programs created for educational purposes have positive outcomes on children and their language development. If the program is not educational or focused on educational needs, then this program would not be very effective towards children and there could also be negative effects to the learning process if a child is unable to understand. When searching the internet, I found many articles that argued against television and how infants and toddlers cannot learn from them.

However, after finding empirical articles with supporting facts and examples, I am able to argue that the educational outcome through a televised program is merely based on the programs intentions as well as the child’s home environment. The facts that I learned in this assignment will stick with me starting now. Considering I work as a preschool teacher at a learning center, I am always playing programs for my students that I think would be beneficial. Now that I know this information, I have realized which ones I have been playing that are not actually benefiting the children and which ones I should keep playing because they are beneficial. I will also remember this information when I am older and have my own children. I now know to build up my child’s environment with many sounds, words, and stories as well as screening time so that they can put all of those sounds and words into a better understanding. 

Updated: May 03, 2023
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Programs for Education, Like Dora, Yield Positive Results. (2022, Mar 26). Retrieved from

Programs for Education, Like Dora, Yield Positive Results essay
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