Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Fall 2008 - page 5

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TV-noise at playtime hurts child development

By Shannon Proudfoot

A television chattering away in the background distracts children as young as 12 months—even if the TV is playing adult programmes—and could represent ”a significant environmental hazard” to their development, according to a study released in July.

Researchers studying children aged one to three found that when a TV was on and playing an episode of Jeopardy, the toddlers spent half as much time playing with a toy before moving on to another activity and three-quarters as much time in intense, focused play as they did when the TV was switched off.

“It’s all just play, but it’s thought to be very important, and essentially the child is programming its own brain with this kind of activity,” says author Daniel Anderson, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts. “At the very least, parents should make sure children have plenty of quiet time for play.” The long-term effects of TV distraction need to be studied further, he says, but interrupted play sessions could lead to attention and other problems.

Most researchers—and parents—are preoccupied with the effect of TV shows designed for children or with the disturbing content of adult shows they watch, Anderson says, but this is the first research to examine the effects of background TV. The idea for the study, published in the July/

August issue of the journal Child Development, occurred to him more than a decade ago when he was home with his one-year-old daughter and the TV was tuned to coverage of the 1993 massacre at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas.

“My daughter was just playing on the floor in front of the TV set and at some point it just occurred to me, ‘Is this having any impact on her?’” he says. “If I thought she was paying attention to it I would turn it off, which I think is typically what parents think about this situation.”

Anderson says he and his co-authors chose Jeopardy for their experiments because it’s exactly the kind of show a parent might have on at home and contains no objectionable content or flashy elements that would draw a very young child’s attention. But even Alex Trebek’s staid quiz-show includes the ever-changing images and sounds that make it impossible for young children—or adults—to tune out TV the way they can a repetitive distraction like a noisy air conditioner, he says.

But before TV became common, people often had radios playing in the background while they went about their lives, he says, and it’s too soon to say whether this atmospheric TV exposure will have any long-term effect on children.

—Canwest News Service

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Men down more suds when the music is loud

“Loud music may have had a negative effect on social interaction in the bar.”

By Tom Spears

OTTAWA – Men in bars drink more and drink faster when loud music is playing, a French scientist says. And Nicolas Gueguen wants bar owners to turn down the volume in order to slow down the drinking. That may stand as much chance as asking bar owners to order Mennonite outfits for the waitresses, but the study is running all the same in a medical journal.

Alcohol kills approximately 70,000 people every year in France. The Psychologist sat in a bar and watched a total of 40 men over the study period, remaining nonchalant to avoid detection, and counting those cute little French 250-millilitre glasses of biere en fut. With music at 72 decibels, the clientele drank moderately. With music up to 88 dB (below the level of a rock concert, but pretty loud), the men appeared more energised, and so did their drinking: an average of 3.4 glasses per customer with loud music, versus 2.6 glasses with ordinary music. And they drank a glass 3 minutes faster, on average, when the music was loud.

Loud music deters conversation
There may be a second reason, besides excitement, the French team says. In science-speak: “Loud music may have had a negative effect on social interaction in the bar.”


Translation from J.P. MacDonald, a veteran Ottawa club DJ: if you can’t hear the person beside you, you stop talking and drink instead. “As a broad generalisation, I think if you increase the volume of music or just the whole feel of a room, yeah, I think people would probably tend to drink a little more,” says MacDonald. But he says there’s more to the equation than loudness.

Violent or mellow
“I play it from a whole psychological point of view. I can tell when people are happy or sad or whatever,” and he chooses music to fit the mood—or change it. There was a time he played Eye of the Tiger, the theme song to the original Rocky. Three fights broke out, and the doorman asked him to change the music right away. "You change the song and put on Red, Red Wine, and the crowd mellows out."

The French research is published in a journal called Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Gueguen teaches at Southern Brittany University. And he adds some foot-notes on drinking, from older research: Fast music makes men drink faster, too. And German music in stores makes customers buy German wines.

—Canwest News Service

I go to restaurants to have conversations with friends, but mostly we are subject to irritating music which makes it difficult to hear each other. The music is very seldom of my choice and is unnecessary. We have gotten rid of music on buses, on the beach and in other public places. People have lots to talk about without a persistent background clatter.

—Letter to the Editor, Victoria Times-Colonist, by RtoQ-member T. Parsons

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