LUBBOCK,TX - Two Texas Tech Professors started a study two years ago that records how a child's learning ability is impacted merely by a parent's presence while watching television.
"There's a lot of research that shows when kids watch TV with a parent, they learn better," TTU Assisant Professor in the Media and Communication School Eric Rasmussen said. "Whether that content is good, or whether that content is bad. We wanted to understand why. What about the parent that's sitting next to the child that makes the child learn more."
Rasmussen along with fellow Media and Communication Assistant Professor Justin Keene brought in 88 local kids with their families, all ranging in age under 12 years old, to watch a TV show: "Man vs. Wild" or a whale documentary. Half of the kids watching the show with their parent sitting next to them. While the other half watched the show alone.
"So what we found is that when a child is watching TV with a parent, their heart rate goes down and their skin conductance goes up," Rasmussen said. "Which means that their brain is telling their body, 'Hey get ready to pay attention,' and their bodies are actually paying more attention when they watch TV. Which is pretty cool if you think about it that children's brains and their bodies are connected in such a way that just a parent sitting next to them can change that."
Each child was given a heart rate and skin conductors on their arms and hands to measure individual responses.
"It's not like the rest of your sweat glands," Keene said. "These sweat glands are only affected by a certain part of your nervous system. That nervous system plays a huge role in fight or flight."
Keene and Rasmussen both agreed that their research shows higher responses to which ever emotion the child was showing while the parent was present. They refer to it as, "Parents making more."
"So what we saw is these children just be the mere presence on this couch," Keene said. "The mere presence of their parents sitting here, it changed the way that their brain was 'preconsciously' reacting to the ability of emotion."
"I'm a parent too and I get it, sometimes we need to put our kids in front of the TV, right, to get anything done," Rasmussen said. "But what this shows us that we are parenting even when we think we aren't parenting. We have a bigger influence than we think we do."
They said they will continue this research with their next focus on the parents responses.
Anyone wanting to participate can reach out to their team on their website here