TV Watching at Age 2 Spells Trouble Later
Study Finds Early TV Exposure Linked to Problems at Age 10
WebMD News Archive
May 3, 2010 -- Television watching at age 2 1/2 boosts a child's risk of
having multiple school and health problems later in life, according to a new
The effects of too much TV too early was far-reaching and long-lasting, says
study author Linda Pagani, PhD, professor of psycho-education at the Universite
de Montreal and a researcher at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research
Center in Montreal, Canada.
''You get a child who's more sedentary, has a higher BMI, is not eating
properly, and not doing well in school socially and academically in the fourth
grade," Pagani tells WebMD.
Numerous other studies have focused on the effects of television viewing on
children, linking too much screen time to poorer school work and excess weight
later. But Pagani says her new research is more comprehensive -- it looked at a
variety of potential effects, not a single one. And she followed up on the
children longer -- until age 10, or fourth grade.
Evaluating the effects of early TV viewing is important, she says.
"From birth to age 5, you have enormous brain expansion. We're talking
And, according to her research, early television viewing is not doing the
toddler brain any favors.
Television and Kids: Study Details
For the study, Pagani and her colleagues gathered data on 1,314 children
born in Quebec, Canada, between 1997 and 1998.
Parents reported how many hours a week their children viewed television at
29 months and again at 53 months. The researchers gathered teacher and parent
reports on academic performance, psychosocial and health habits, and the
children's body mass index or BMI.
At age 29 months, the average TV viewing was 8.82 hours a week, Pagani
found. At 53 months, the average was 14.85 hours.
Although that may not sound high, Pagani notes that the range was wide.
''This is an average,'' she says, so many children watched more.
At 29 months, 11% of the toddlers were watching more than two hours a day.
By age 53 months, 23.4% of the children were watching more than two hours a
Current recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics discourage
television viewing for children under age 2 and suggest no more than one or two
hours of ''screen time" (TV, computers) daily for older children.
Television Viewing and Kids: Effects
Television viewing had undesirable effects, even after the researchers
adjusted for a number of variables that might account for the effects, such as
family configuration and education of the mother, and the amount of TV they
viewed as fourth graders.
"We considered all kinds of competing explanations," Pagani tells WebMD. But
even after taking all the factors into account, the effects remained, she
"Basically we saw kids who watch excessive TV at 29 months were more likely
to be less productive in class [in fourth grade] as rated by their teachers,"
she tells WebMD. "They were performing less well in mathematics. We also saw
negative effects in anything that required effortful exercise -- how often they
exercised, whether they liked to do anything that requires effort. And their
body mass index was greater."