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.
Read the summary of the study at the Pediatrics website, here.
The Arizona Republic Article: TV Bad for Kids, New Study Reports