Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

TV Watching at Age 2 Spells Trouble Later

Study Finds Early TV Exposure Linked to Problems at Age 10
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

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 study.

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 exponential."

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 day.

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 says.

"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."

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow