A recent study that was presented at an annual communication/media conference found that background television exposure (meaning the TV is on when the child is doing something else in the same room, such as playing with toys or reading a book) has detrimental effects on young children’s emergent literacy. Emergent literacy includes basic skills such as knowing that we read from right to left, being able to identify letters, etc. The bottom line, there is growing evidence that the simple act of having the TV on for background noise impacts children.
Here is the citation to the research: Nathanson, A.I. & Rasmussen, E.E. (2010, August). Background television and toddlers’ and preschoolers’ emergent literacy. Paper presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Denver, CO.