Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

Font Size

TV Implicated in Autism Rise

Business Professors' Study Links Too Much Toddler TV Time to Autism
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 18, 2006 -- Too much TV time for toddlers may trigger autism, according to a study by Cornell business professors.

Over the past few decades, there's been an amazing increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism. Some experts think this is due to broader diagnostic criteria for autism. Some point to vastly increased services for autistic children. Others think that something in the environment is triggering an autism epidemic.

It occurred to Cornell University management professor Michael Waldman, PhD, that the increase in autism cases came at the same time as increased opportunities for very young children to watch TV. Could it be, he wondered, that the explosion in children's TV programming, DVDs, VCRs, and video/computer games is behind the explosion in autism diagnoses?

Waldman asked his colleagues in the medical world to look at the issue. Nobody would. So he assembled a research team and did the study himself -- using tools more often seen in economic studies than in medical studies. The results bolstered his suspicions.

"We are not claiming that we have definitive evidence. But we have evidence that is awfully suggestive of a link between TV watching and autism," Waldman tells WebMD. "Someone should nail this down one way or the other."

Waldman will present the study at this week's National Bureau of Economic Research health economics conference.

Rain, Cable TV, and Autism

Autism is usually diagnosed when a child is about 3 years old. Any effect of TV watching would have to happen before that age. But few studies, Waldman found, have compiled statistics on the TV habits of U.S. toddlers.

But there are statistics, compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, on when families watch TV, and on how much TV they watch. These statistics show that toddlers watch more television when it's raining outside than when it isn't raining.

Waldman and colleagues then looked at county-by-county autism rates in California, Oregon, and Washington. All three states have huge regional variations in annual rainfall. Sure enough, Waldman found that autism rates tended to be higher in the rainiest counties.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

girl at window
Symptoms within the first 2 years of a child’s life.
boy playing a violin
How is this condition similar to autism?
Mother and daughter indoors playing
Play therapy may undo the disorder in at-risk babies.
preschool age girl sitting at desk
What causes this rare form of autism?
High Functioning Autism And Asperge Syndrome
Gluten Free Diet Slideshow
Mother and daughter indoors playing
man on bicycle
girl at window
Mother hugging teenage son
Understanding Rett Syndrome
Home Care Tips

WebMD Special Sections