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Too Much TV Linked to Behavior Problems

More Than 2 Hours of Television a Day Harms Children’s Social Skills, Study Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 1, 2007 -- Watching more than two hours of television a day may lead to behavioral problems among young children, according to a new study.

Researchers found that children who watched more than two hours of television per day from age 2 1/2 until age 5 1/2 were more likely to develop sleep, attention, and aggressive behavior problems than those who watched less.

In addition, researchers found 5 1/2-year-olds who watched more than two hours of television per day also had fewer social skills.

Researcher Kamila B. Mistry, MPH, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and colleagues say the results suggests that the timing of television exposure among children may be significant, and they highlight the need to monitor children’s television use, especially during the early childhood years.

TV Affects Children’s Behavior

The study, published in Pediatrics, involved more than 2,700 children whose parents were interviewed by telephone about their television viewing habits at age 2 1/2 and again at 5 1/2.

The results showed that 16% of parents said their child watched more than two hours of television a day at age 2 1/2, compared with 15% of 5 1/2-year-olds who watched more than two hours of TV per day.

Twenty percent of parents reported that their child watched more than two hours of television per day at both ages. This sustained exposure to television was associated with problems with sleep, attention, and aggressive behavior.

Early exposure to television was not associated with any problems with social skills, but watching more than two hours a day at age 5 1/2 was linked to fewer social skills.

The study also showed that 41% of children had a television in their room by age 5 1/2, and having a television in the bedroom was associated with sleep problems and less emotional reactivity at age 5 1/2.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not having a television set in children’s bedrooms and discourages television viewing among children under 2 years old, with no more than two hours per day of TV recommended for children over 2.

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