Remember those old black and white episodes of Sesame Street? Of course not, neither do I. But, I came across a study today that looked at young children’s attention to Sesame Street (a black and white Pilot version of Sesame Street no less). The study found that attention to television increased with age. That is, children younger than 2.5 paid attention to visual and auditorily stimulating features, whereas children older than 2.5 were able to give sustained attention toward the TV (in frequency of looking at the TV and in duration of looks). Overall, children paid more attention to Sesame Street when the following were present: women, children, eye contact, puppets, peculiar voices, animation, movement, lively music, rhyming, repetition and alliteration, and auditory change.
I’m surmising that the different amounts of attention kids give TV and different ages has to do with what is called “perceptual boundedness” — the youngest children cannot developmentally give attention to more than the most stimulating thing in their environment. Think about the ramifications for that in your home!
Here is the reference: Anderson, D. R., & Levin, S.R. (1976). Young children’s attention to Sesame Street. Child Development, 47, 806-811.