Television viewing correlated with Autism
By bblfish on Oct 17, 2006
A Cornell University study just published revelas a correlation between TV and autism.
Today, Cornell University researchers are reporting what appears to be a statistically significant relationship between autism rates and television watching by children under the age of 3. The researchers studied autism incidence in California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington state. They found that as cable television became common in California and Pennsylvania beginning around 1980, childhood autism rose more in the counties that had cable than in the counties that did not. They further found that in all the Western states, the more time toddlers spent in front of the television, the more likely they were to exhibit symptoms of autism disorders.
This may seem weird but should not be so surprising. Autism is
classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests itself in markedly abnormal social interaction, communication ability, patterns of interests, and patterns of behavior...Since autism is clearly related to language learning, we studied it in Philosophy, when I was at Birckbeck College. Children that are autistic have difficulty comprehending that others can see the world differently from the way they do. They will not understand for example that if a character in a muppet show hides something, the other characters in the show won't know that it is hidden.
...autism manifests itself in delays in "social interaction, language as used in social communication, or symbolic or imaginative play".
I have just been reading Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations where through a series of questions he gets to the complexity of language learning, how much of a social process it is, how much it involves games - should in fact be seen as a set of overlapping games. When playing with a human being, there is always immediate feedback between a child and the people and objects around it, which involves smiles, cuddles and frowns, movements, hopping up and down, hiding, etc. The people on kids programs try the best to do that, but they can never directly respond to the child's immediate emotions, and they are in the end only ever a two dimensional picture on a box. So that the objects they move don't have a physical presence for the child. If those objects fall they can't hurt the child, if the people speak about an object, the child can't participate, if the person lies the child can't be deceived.
Children placed all day in front of a TV may not cry, but there is something fundamental that they will be missing.
For more information on this, countervailing views etc. see the lenghty Slashdot discussion on this study.