Toddler TV Time Can Cause Attention Problems
Study Shows, Two Hours a Day Leads to Difficulty Concentrating
WebMD News Archive
April 5, 2004 -- Tempting as it might be to do so, using the
television to "baby-sit" 1- to 3-year-olds increases the possibility
that the baby will have attention problems in school, according to results of a
new study of more than 2,500 children.
Child development experts have been worried about kids and TV
for decades and the American Academy of Pediatrics is already on record in
favor of limiting toddler TV time, but the study from researchers at the
University of Washington Child Health Institute in Seattle offers the first
scientific evidence linking television exposure to attention problems. Dimitri
A. Christakis, MD, MPH, tells WebMD that a 3-year-old who watches TV for two
hours a day "has a 20% increased risk for attention problems at age 7
compared with a child who doesn't watch any TV."
Christakis says that the risk increases as TV watching
increases so that "for each additional hour of television watched, the risk
is increased by almost 10%."
Moreover, he says that the TV may increase the risk for
attentional problems because television images change rapidly, "which is an
important contrast to the pace of real life," he says. He notes that even
some well-respected children's programs - such as Sesame Street -- are
specifically designed to rely on rapid fire images to keep a young child's
In the study Christakis and colleagues used data collected from
the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a study sponsored by the U.S.
Department of Labor. The survey collects data on family background, home
environment, and health. Mothers were asked to estimate television watching
time on a typical weekday. Television data were available for 1,278 children at
age 1 and 1,345 children at age 3, and data were collected again for both
groups at age 7. The researchers used a measurement tool called the Behavioral
Problems Index to identify children who had attention problems such as
difficulty concentrating, being easily distracted, impulsiveness, or
restlessness. He says that about 10% of the children had attention problems by