What is background noise?
Background noise, also referred to as ambient noise, is any sound other than the primary sound in setting. Though some people find it helpful for focus and concentration, most find it undesirable and distracting.
Thus its sister-term, “noise pollution”.
Many parents find the silence that fills the house in the calm moments of parenthood to be bothersome. So, we turn on music, podcasts, or we put the TV on while the kids play.
A common scenario is a parent putting a kid’s show on the television for their children, then leaving it on after the child stops paying attention to it.
Sometimes we put a kids show on just in case our child gets bored with playing. This can ease our anxiety about our child experiencing boredom and also satisfy our need to have the house feel busier than it is.
But how is this affecting our child’s development, specifically in the area of their ability to concentrate?
Can background noise affect how well kids concentrate?
One of the negative effects of background noise is that is has an impact on how often we interact with our children. Studies show that parents talk to their children around 20% less when the television is on, even in the background.
For young children in the throes of rapid language acquisition, this is a troubling figure. The fact is, and this is especially true for very young toddlers and babies, language is not acquired from TV.
Language is best learned through face-to-face conversations with adults and peers, where they can mimic our oral movements and infer emotion from our facial expressions and body animation.
Along with that drop in the number of words the child is hearing, there are missed social-emotional learning opportunities.
When it comes to concentration and focus, we again see issues when background noise is present.
Children, though it may not always seem like it, are capable of intense focus and they work hard at mastering tasks.
While engaged in activities, background television, talking, or music can cause them to become preoccupied and distracted and not achieve their goals for play. The level of concentration needed, along with the internal reward of completing play tasks, have a greater potential of not being met in the presence of background noise.
Children who live in households with background noise going for hours, experience more problems with reading and learning than children who do not.
Today’s rapid screen changes and on-demand TV viewing aren’t doing your child’s development of focus and concentration any favors, either.
Even if the TV is on in the background, if it’s in the same room with your playing child, there is a good chance it is grabbing their attention here and there, giving their brains a boost of dopamine and taking their minds off the task at hand, even momentarily.
What should you do?
The lesson here for parents is to worry less about having sound fill the house, at least not for the sake of your children. They are not benefiting from it, and it may even be hurting their development.
Watching a limited amount of TV is just fine, if that is what you choose for your child. If nobody is actually watching the TV though, it should be turned off.