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Why don't kids get bored of watching TV?

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Does anyone know of any scientific, psychological explanation as to why children can keep watching TV for hours on end without switching it off to say, "I'm bored." Is it just because if they're bored with one channel, they'll flip to another? Or is there something about TV that is so addictive that they just can't ever get enough?

Thanks for any thoughts/links/info!
#1 - September 19, 2011, 01:58 PM

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I don't know for TV specifically, but I do know (psychology major) that up until around age seven or eight, kids can't process stories fully.  They can follow individual scenes or parts of scenes, but their brain isn't developed enough yet for them to make the connections from one scene to another, to perspective-take from various characters' POVs, or to totally understand the big picture of the story.  This is why younger kids tend to want to watch the same movies and read the same books over and over, and don't get bored--because they don't actually know those stories after one viewing/reading the same way an adult would, and each time they go through the story they understand it a little better.

So that may be a factor in what you're talking about, for younger kids at least--what may look like a whole lot of the same on the TV to us might look very different (and more interesting) to a kid who's more focused on the details of each scene individually?
#2 - September 19, 2011, 02:22 PM
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#3 - September 19, 2011, 02:26 PM
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Some kids are like that, Lil.  I'm not surprised your kids are.

When I was a kid, I watched hours and hours of bad t.v.  I don't think it really hurt me because I read a lot too and also played outdoors.  I watched a lot of things I didn't really enjoy--just to zone out and get away from problems at school and at home.
#4 - September 19, 2011, 03:17 PM
www.ellenjackson.net
PICKY EATERS
OCTOPUSES ONE TO TEN
THE MYSTERIOUS UNIVERSE
THE BALLAD OF BOOSTER BOGG
BEASTLY BABIES
TOOLING AROUND

I don't know for TV specifically, but I do know (psychology major) that up until around age seven or eight, kids can't process stories fully.  They can follow individual scenes or parts of scenes, but their brain isn't developed enough yet for them to make the connections from one scene to another,

I am not sure this is current toddler theory, Megan. I personally think Piaget was wrong. Toddlers use story to order and understand their world. The subject was touched on very briefly in Malcolm Gladwell's "THE TIPPING POINT." You can read the salient point here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=yBDBEGBIUmgC&pg=PT38&lpg=PT38&dq=sesame+gladwell+telling+herself+a+story&source=bl&ots=JGMzPetfup&sig=_htOOZNPwW421dWLX-kcQKfWB1M&hl=en&ei=hcp3TqG2BIXZiALB1eTZCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

:) eab

#5 - September 19, 2011, 04:10 PM

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Because TV is good.
#6 - September 19, 2011, 04:17 PM
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I am not sure this is current toddler theory, Megan. I personally think Piaget was wrong. Toddlers use story to order and understand their world. The subject was touched on very briefly in Malcolm Gladwell's "THE TIPPING POINT." You can read the salient point here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=yBDBEGBIUmgC&pg=PT38&lpg=PT38&dq=sesame+gladwell+telling+herself+a+story&source=bl&ots=JGMzPetfup&sig=_htOOZNPwW421dWLX-kcQKfWB1M&hl=en&ei=hcp3TqG2BIXZiALB1eTZCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false


Hmmm...  The link is just sending me to the general info page about the book.

I was learning this stuff in my developmental psych courses in 2002-2003, so if the general feeling has shifted, it's very recently.  But maybe it's not exactly the same thing you're thinking of--what I recall had to do not with toddlers but kids up to 7/8.  I don't think it was so much that kids don't use and understand stories at all, but that they have trouble processing more complex and multifaceted stories and keeping all the elements in their heads for several minutes at a time so they can connect them to things that happen in later scenes.

Edit to note: It has been several years since I was studying this directly, so I acknowledge I may be misremembering.
#7 - September 19, 2011, 05:48 PM
« Last Edit: September 19, 2011, 05:51 PM by Megan »
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GIVE UP THE GHOST
Fallen World series
Earth & Sky trilogy
A MORTAL SONG
http://www.megancrewe.com

Mine get bored after a couple of episodes, usually. Even my 3 year old will say "enough tv" and shut it off.
My guess as to why it takes longer to get bored is that kids tv has researched kid brains and know when to switch to a new storyline, cut away, put on Moose A Moose - that kind of thing. And I think it depends on how good the tv is or how much to their taste. Just like I could watch Friday Night Lights alllll night if I let myself, my kids will watch more of their favorite shows like Arthur than, say, Mr. Rogers (which they hate).
#8 - September 19, 2011, 06:00 PM
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For the same reason that my husband never gets bored watching TV?

Sorry I don't have a better answer, but I like what Megan and Robin suggested.
#9 - September 19, 2011, 09:11 PM
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It depends what's on. When I was little I used to follow tons of diffent shows and wanted to watch them every day. (This included programs like Gilligan's Island reruns, ha ha.)

I would never just turn the TV on and watch some random thing.

For people who just sit there watching TV like zombies, it could be that they just have nothing better to do. I do believe that the internet is now taking up a lot of time that people used to spend watching TV though. I don't watch much TV these days myself.
#10 - September 19, 2011, 09:27 PM

When my kids watch a lot of TV they forget that there are other things to do and other things they enjoy. But I was surprised when we laid down the rule that they had to read, play outside, or do something for an hour before having a half hour of TV time they simply said OK and haven't had a problem with it.
#11 - September 19, 2011, 09:43 PM

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My two have some days where they love it and some where they can take it or leave it...Although my 3 year old has watched 'Lady and the Tramp' once a day for the last two months... :pullhair:

My eleven year old likes stuff I like (documentaries about sharks/jellyfish, Mythbusters, Doctor Who type of programmes) and films but he does get bored - thats when the XBox goes on (WORSE)...or he'll read a book (Wimpy Kid or Anthony Horowitz type stuff.)

Why they like TV so much is anyone's guess...Colours, sounds, information, make believe - learning about the world beyond their own experiences, maybe?

#12 - September 20, 2011, 03:22 AM
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Great, thanks everyone. Yes, I think Robin has an excellent point - it's designed to keep kids interested. Actually, the last time I watched scheduled kids' tv (as opposed to choosing a DVD for my daughter, which is what I'd usually do) my brain felt quite fried by the speed, the colours, the intensity of it all!! It sent me into a kind of stupor.
#13 - September 20, 2011, 06:41 AM

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My kids have limited watching time, but they definitely enjoy TV aimed at kids.  They can watch episode after episode of Phineas and Ferb or Avatar, the Last Airbender.  Of course, my husband also liked P&F, and I like Avatar...

When I was little, I wasn't allowed to watch more than an hour of TV a day, and since Little House on the Prairie reruns ran every afternoon, that pretty much filled my time.  Now, I enjoy various shows, but I don't ever just sit and watch.  I'm a reader/watcher, and if I don't have a book in my lap (or on my computer) -- or I'm not crocheting -- then I don't have the TV on.
#14 - September 20, 2011, 07:07 AM
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Megan there *is* disagreement but-- I *am* talking 2 and 3-year-olds.

Gladwell's book is actually talking about studies of why Blues Clues works so well for keeping pre-school kids attention-- however, the studies he mentioned did delve into the realm of toddler-dom. I enjoyed the book because it was about marketing, which is my hobby. :)

Because I have worked with language acquisition (and raised about a billion children. Okay it only feels like a billion) I agree with the studies that say toddlers can follow and enjoy simple story. They *don't* enjoy word play--because they can't understand it yet. They like *very* literal stories.

eab

#15 - September 20, 2011, 07:41 AM

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This is an interesting discussion. I wonder how much the child's age factors into it. It seems we watched more tv when the kids were younger (yes, bad mommy) but we often were doing other activities, like playdoh or painting or blocks or building forts. It was on in the background mostly, usually on PBS, but they had their favorite shows that we'd watch over and over again. I think there is also the element of anticipation and recognition through repetition that helps kids process the world and make connections, whether they get the nuances of the storytelling or not. The same for books, why they demand we read the same books again and again and again.

Nowadays my husband is most likely the one who turns on the tv and he does it the second he wakes up until he leaves for work or goes to bed. If it's not on when the kids wake up or get home from school (which is usually the case) it stays off for a long time. When one of them does turn it on it seems they are usually doing something else, or just want the background noise, or watch it for an hour or so then are off to do other stuff. If I turn it off they don't make a fuss. Take away their xbox or computer privileges and that's when the wails come.
#16 - September 20, 2011, 07:42 AM

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Franzilla asked an excellent question. Because if I think about it I realize that if I knew the answer I could write the sort of books even the most jaded, slumped-over, seen-it-all acquisitions editor would not be able to put down.
#17 - September 20, 2011, 07:57 AM
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I think toddlers like the repetitive shows.  Ever notice how a toddler has almost every commercial memorized, but probably cannot tell you what the show they are watching was about?  I took care of a young boy and what he loved most were the videos that had songs that went along with the stories.  He memorized the songs long before he understood the story line.  The more complicated the story line, the less he liked the video until he grew older.

I think that is why the cartoon channels are such favorites amongst the the younger kids (and some adult males  ;)).  I think when they become old enough to become discriminatory and understand story lines and facts that they decide what they want to watch.

I also know people that just turn on the TV for background noise. :lightning:
#18 - September 20, 2011, 07:38 PM
You must do the things you think you cannot do.  Eleanor Roosevelt

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Did the book on Blues Clues mention Steve Burns' all around awesomeness? Because really, when Joe came on, the kids (and I) lost interest. Steve was just awesome... the dog and Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper were totally optional, in my view...

My daughter, when she was 3, even had a talking Steve Burns doll that she carried everywhere. He had a ring in the back that you pulled and was about 18 inches tall and sat perfectly in her foam Elmo chair with her. ;)
#19 - September 21, 2011, 02:18 PM
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Did the book on Blues Clues mention Steve Burns' all around awesomeness? Because really, when Joe came on, the kids (and I) lost interest. Steve was just awesome... the dog and Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper were totally optional, in my view...

I agree, the boy I took care of would watch a Blue's Clue video with Steve in it rather than watch any new ones with Joe. 

 :dog2:
#20 - September 22, 2011, 04:21 PM
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Okay, now I want to know which kids' TV shows YOU found/find the most boring (ie ones your kids watches). Mickey Mouse gets me. Yawn.
#21 - September 22, 2011, 06:12 PM

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Hey, I found this other thread too ... funny. From our recent cross country trip where there was a TV in every hotel room, I noticed that my kids were bored watching TV. They were using it as a way to veg out.

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#22 - September 23, 2011, 10:30 AM
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My guess is that (in America) the average household watches like 5 - 8 hours of tv a day. I read this online. I think some parents use the tv as a way to entertain the child and get time away from them. My family is lucky we live by the beach in California and when I was child I grew up across the street from a huge park. When the weather is nice in a child's environment and the parents enjoy being active children will go outside. If the parents love to sit on the couch and watch tv guess what the kids are going to do too? YEP - They learn from the parents.
#23 - November 18, 2011, 03:14 PM

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Okay, now I want to know which kids' TV shows YOU found/find the most boring (ie ones your kids watches). Mickey Mouse gets me. Yawn.

Well...my 3-year-old likes to watch really dry educational stuff on Youtube (spelling videos, counting, etc.) I suppose I should be thankful.
#24 - November 19, 2011, 05:48 PM

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Memory recall tells me I did get bored watching TV and found other things to do, but we didn't have that new-fangled "cable." I'd be willing to bet kids don't get bored now because they have their own channels (I won't repeat the targeted programming and marketing stuff - let alone the research that goes into snaring the kids).
#25 - November 19, 2011, 06:10 PM
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Now that you mention it, I don't know if I've ever witnessed my son "watching" tv. When he was very little, he couldn't have cared less. He would stop for about five minutes to watch news, if someone was talking directly through the screen, but otherwise, when the tv was on, he was always doing something else,too. However, we found out later that he had very bad vision. He was nearly legally blind in one eye
 
He's seven now, and with some therapy and glasses he has near perfect vision, and we don't have the tv hooked up anymore, but still, when we watch movies or videos, he's always drawing or building something, but he's also following the story. Quite often, he'll turn off the set on his own. Of course, he's just like the rest of us around here. When the tv is on, I'm usually sewing or drawing or finishing some non-writing project or another. We listen to the tv more than we actually watch it. I don't think I've ever seen my husband sit through an entire tv show, either. Perhaps we all have ADD.
#26 - November 21, 2011, 11:29 AM

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