Article Critique and Summary

Article Critique and Summary

Summary of the article

The selected article that forms the focus of this paper is the study into the effects of background television on toy play behavior of very young children by Schmidt, Pempek, Kirkorian, Lund and Anderson (2008).  The authors of the study implemented a quantitative research methodology that adopted the experimental research design. The adoption of analysis of variance (ANOVA) identified that the research was quantitative in nature and the fact that two groups were studied where random assignment of the participants took place provides further evidence that it was an experimental study (Schmidt et al., 2008).  Additional evidence to support that the research was experimental was the statement that “the experimenter could control the TV and VCR from the observation room using remote control devices” (Schmidt et al., 2008, p. 1140). According to Babbie (2015), experimental research is evidenced by the manipulation of the variables by the researcher. Additionally, an experimental research is evidenced where the researcher objectively observes the children in the playroom and could control the television and the VCR from the observation room through the use of remote control devices and this identifies other characteristics of experimental research where the participants are immersed in a controlled environment where variables were manipulated by the researcher (Schmidt et al., 2008).

Schmidt et al. (2008) states that the “dependent measures were percent of session spent in play, mean play episode length, percent of play that was focused, mean length of focused play, and average maturity of play weighted by time spent at each level” (p. 1142). The dependent variables are termed as the variables that undergo change based on the variation made to the independent variables, and in this study, the variables above occur based on the state of background television (Schmidt et al., 2008). Therefore, the independent variable, in this case, was the status of the television that is whether it was on or off during the first or the second half hour.

Although the random selection was not implemented the researchers adopted random assignment of the participants into the two groups that is the “TV first and the TV second group” (Schmidt et al., 2008, p. 1140). The authors adopted the use of the purposive sampling as the participants were identified through the state birth records, but random assignment into the two groups was carried out. The authors placed a constraint into the assignment process by ensuring that half of the participants were assigned to each group (Schmidt et al., 2008).   The process of data collection is evidenced by Schmidt et al. (2008, p. 1140) statement where the authors note that “two digital video (DV) cameras were used to record the child’s behavior.” Video footage was collected of the behaviors and analyzed by the researchers.

The researchers found that cumulative time spent playing was reduced by 5% in the half hour that the television was turned on as the children spent about 5% of their playtime looking at the television (Schmidt et al., 2008). The children only focused on the television for the first six minutes after which attention and focus on the background television reduced significantly. The extent of background television resulted in reduced play time overall, shorter play episodes as well as reduced focused attention (Schmidt et al., 2008). Additionally, maturity of play and the focused attention was only affected slightly. The greater the number of looks at the television screen the greater the disruption evidenced in their play and this resulted in the children playing with 10% more toys than when there was no television in the background (Schmidt et al., 2008). The authors noted that as the children looked at the television they lost focus of their play and this meant that they had to reinstate the play scheme by picking up a new toy. The overall disruptive effects of background television on children’s play activities is real but the effects are largely small.

Critique of the article

Validity as noted by Babbie (2015) refers to the extent to which the research instrument measures accurately what it was designed to measure while reliability is the extent to which the test produce consistent results when the measurements are repeated. Reliability in this study was achieved by having two independent observes score four participants from each of the three age groups for each measure (Babbie, 2015). Furthermore, the inter-observer reliability tapes were used throughout the coding period to support reliability monitoring in the study. Test-retest practice is another approach to achieving reliability, and this involved double coding the 12 tapes to ensure that that experimenter error did not exist (Schmidt et al., 2008). Validity means that the research instrument measures exactly what it was intended to measure and in this study, the researchers hired a research assistant who was trained on how to code the data from the video to ensuring effective analysis was achieved (Schmidt et al., 2008). External validity was identified by the fact that the findings of the research could be generalized to other children of the same age group across the population. Generalizability identifies that the findings apply to children whose place, time and circumstances differ from those of study participants (Schmidt et al., 2008). Furthermore, change of behavior of the children over time was analyzed through the use of the hierarchical linear modeling which aimed to isolate the effects of television from other factors and thus achieved internal validity.

The authors of this study employed ethical safeguards. Informed consent was sought from the parents of the participants in that a letter was used to describe the study and what it entails in addition to adopting a follow-up telephone conversation to request participation (Schmidt et al., 2008). These strategies worked to ensure that participation was voluntary and was informed of all aspects of the research. Confidentiality was also adhered to in that the authors did not collect any personally identifiable information from the participants and it is impossible to tell who the participants were (Schmidt et al., 2008). Privacy is another ethical safeguard that was employed by the authors in that the names of the participants or any information that could be used to identify the participants were non-existent in this research.

Additional research based on the findings of this study can be implemented to better understand the negative long term effects of background television use on the development of children. The research would focus on understanding whether reductions in play episodes, as well as  focused attention lengths due to the presence of background television, has long term effects on the cognitive development of children (Schmidt et al., 2008). This follow-up research would be essential in understanding whether the findings of the research affect the development of the children in the long run.

The results presented in the article are weaker than the authors claim. For instance the authors claim that background television has a disruptive effect on the length of pay, the percent of play and focused attention (Schmidt et al., 2008).  The authors argue that the findings were significant and thus background television had an extensive impact on child play behavior. The analysis of the findings however identified that only small changes were evidenced, for instance the children only paid attention to 5% of what was happening on the television and a small decrease in the total amount of play after the television was switched off (Schmidt et al., 2008). The results did not identify any significant impact of television on the play behaviors of children and this identifies that the findings, in this case, were weak and cannot be extensively generalized.

The method of collecting observable data through the use of cameras was a more effective approach of gaining access to the needed information. Recorded videotapes collect a wealth of information needed as compared to other methods of data collection (Babbie, 2015). Recording the participants was essential to collect a wealth of information about the participants and their behaviors as compared to other methods of collecting observable data such as checklists or surveys.


The authors of this study implemented an experimental research design aimed at studying the effects of background television on the toy play behavior of very young children. The experimental research design involved the random assignment of the participants into two groups that is the TV first and the TV second groups with each group having an equal number of participants (Schmidt et al., 2008). The dependent variables in the study were play length, play percent, focused play percent, play maturity and focused length of play while the independent variables were the status of the background television either on or off (Schmidt et al., 2008).  The researcher manipulated the independent variable by remotely turning on and off the television within the controlled study area. The researcher was directly involved in the collection of data. The researcher concluded that background television affects slightly overall play resulting in shorter play episodes, shorter periods of focused attention and percent of play. However, the maturity of play as well as a reduction in focused attention was affected slightly. The findings of the study identify that background television has a significant effect on child play behavior but these effects are small.




Babbie, E. R. (2015). The practice of social research. Belmont, CA: Nelson Education.

Schmidt, M. E., Pempek, T. A., Kirkorian, H. L., Lund, A. F., & Anderson, D. R. (2008). The effects of background television on the toy play behavior of very young children. Child development79(4), 1137-1151. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01180.x.


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