“Don’t let your children grow up to be couch potatoes,” begins an article in the Montreal Gazette. The newspaper was announcing yet another study on the effects of television viewing upon young children. This time the research was done by academics at Université de Montréal, Hôpital Sainte Justine and the University of Michigan. They used the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development to obtain their data.
Lead researcher, Linda Pagani, has children of her own and was interested in finding out for herself the impact of TV watching. Some of the study conclusions include:
- “Higher levels of early childhood television exposure predicted less task-oriented, persistent and autonomous behavior in the classroom.”
- “Higher TV exposure as toddlers corresponded to less achievement in math, an increase in being victimized by classmates and less physical activity at age 10.”
- High levels of early childhood television predicts “a more sedentary lifestyle, higher consumption of junk food and, ultimately, higher body mass index.”
- Beginning with an average of slightly more than an hour of TV-watching a day, the study reported that with every additional hour of TV-watching there was a corresponding six per cent drop in math proficiency, seven per cent decline in classroom engagement, and a 10 per cent increase in the likelihood of being bullied at school.
However, there are some voices that are not as quick to demonize TV watching. Deborah Linebarger, director of the Children’s Media Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, points out that her research indicates that watching educational content when in preschool predicts higher grades in high school, better academic self-concepts and more leisure book reading. But watching child-directed and age-inappropriate content predicts poorer language and less or no learning.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television viewing for babies before the age of 2 and less than two hours a day for children 2 years and up. But Pagani adds: “Between the ages of 2 and 4, even incremental exposure to television delayed development.”
The University of Michigan has a great webpage offering important information and a helpful Q&A on TV viewing and children. The university also offers some great ideas on how to manage your children’s television watching.
To view the published study: http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/164/5/425 Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent medicine.