Children’s Behavioral Problems Linked to TV

By , October 9, 2007 8:55 pm

There is a new study out which finds that children who watch TV for two or more hours per day from a young age (2.5 years-old), are more prone to behavioral problems and poor social skills when they are older (5.5 years-old).
The study was conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and was published in the October issue of the journal Pediatrics. It is based on a nationwide survey of the parents of 2,707 children.

Here are some of the findings:

-Children who had been sustained, heavy (two or more hours of TV a day) TV watchers from ages 2.5 to 5.5 had problems in the areas of social skills and behavior. Problems with aggression and difficulty paying attention were also commonly found in this group.

-Children who didn’t watch much as toddlers, but who were heavy viewers by age 5.5 demonstrated problems with social skills.

-Children who watched TV heavily at age 2.5 but who had reduced their TV viewing time by age 5.5, showed no significant social or behavioral problems.

I think that the last point is one of the most interesting findings in this study. Even if a child was a heavy viewer as a toddler, as long as viewing is significantly reduced by age 5.5, then the negative behavioral and social effects seem to be alleviated. In other words, preschool and kindergarten age is still not too late to reduce a child’s TV viewing and see improved behavior. Reducing or eliminating the TV, even after the toddler years, can have a positive impact on behavior and social skills.

Today’s Phoenix newspaper (The Arizona Republic) had an article about the study, that added a few bits of interesting information. The Arizona Republic reporter interviewed Jill Stamm, a psychologist and co-founder of New Directions Institute for Infant Brain Development in Phoenix. According to Ms. Stamm, TV’s short bursts of programming and commercials trains an infant’s brain to “scan and shift” rather than to pay attention for a long period of time. Once this brain pattern is set, it can inhibit the ability to learn later in life. She says: “What the brain gets wired for is quick hits of salient information. The brain gets used to that, and that’s what it wants.” Ms. Stamm says that the brain is adaptable and by reducing or ceasing TV viewing altogether, particularly before the age of 5, the brain will rewire itself and repair the damage.

There is also mention of a former Phoenix school teacher who says she could pick out the heavy TV viewers in her class simply by their behavior. They were the kids who couldn’t sit still and had short attention spans. She also said that “their vocabularies were limited and their writing less descriptive.”

Additionally, the study gaged the effects on 5.5 year-old children of having a television in the bedroom. 41% of the parents surveyed reported that their child had a TV in their room. Not surprisingly, the study found that having a set in the bedroom was linked to sleep problems.

LINKS:

Read the summary of the study at the Pediatrics website, here.

The Arizona Republic Article: TV Bad for Kids, New Study Reports

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6 Responses to “Children’s Behavioral Problems Linked to TV”

  1. Jenny says:

    I agree with you about the most fascinating part of the study. I hope it encourages more parents that may be considering making some changes to go ahead and make them. Interesting stuff!

  2. missbecky75 says:

    Ok, that did it. We’re going to unplug the TV tomorrow. We’ve decided to start with a week, so we’ll have a goal to work towards and then we’ll make another goal. I don’t think we’ll completely drop tv watching all together, but offer videos as “treats” later. But first we need to get a handle on it and just drop it cold turkey. Thanks for the post!

  3. Andrée says:

    It just seems to obvious to me. But the key is parental control: which seems to be gone. I have students falling asleep in first period. I ask why. Cell phones (a couple towns have service now) and video games. I ask why their parents allow that, the kids say the parents don’t know. Lights out? Take phone or Game Boy under the cover.

    Lack of parental control is all that says to me. You hit a raw nerve for me. I see the whole generation disappearing while the rest of the developed world surpasses the US. And I see other children in developing countries suffering without the basics while ours fritter away their lives on this junk.

    Rant over.

  4. Mom Unplugged says:

    Jenny –

    It is an interesting study. When I saw the headline of the newspaper article, “TV Bad for Kids New Study Reports,” I laughed and wrote it off as non-news. After all, many studies say TV is bad for kids, so what’s new? Well, the information that the effects of TV might be reversible is new, that’s what!

    Miss Becky –

    Good luck, be sure and let me know how it goes!

    Andree –

    I also believe that parental control is an issue. TV, cell phones, and video games aren’t inherently bad, but as in all things, moderation is key. If children and teens are going to use these devices, then it is up to parents to teach and/or enforce moderation. If we had a Game Boy, my son would want to be on it all the time, I know. Perhaps I am taking the wimpy way out by not allowing any video games or TV at home, but I personally feel that it is the right decision for us. It is something of a grand experiment. We’ll see how it turns out.

    Thank you for your rant! It is very interesting to have the opinion of a teacher in these matters!

  5. […] and I have been talking about this for some time and after reading this post on Unplug Your Kids and seeing a tv commercial today showing a child coming home from school and […]

  6. […] He believes that the sensory complexity of TV, video and computer games (rapidly changing images, colors, noises, etc.) is having a detrimental effect on the wiring of the child’s brain and is producing children with shorter attention spans. This claim is backed up by a study that I wrote about here: Children’s Behavioral Problems Linked to TV. […]

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