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Health & Parenting

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TV Watching at Age 2 Spells Trouble Later

Study Finds Early TV Exposure Linked to Problems at Age 10

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."

The children exposed to too much TV were also likely to be victimized, she found, explaining that social relationships take practice and effort. "Kids who do too much media, studies have shown this, tend to be socially isolated."

Not having social skills, she says, may make the kids targets for being teased and insulted by classmates.

Each additional hour of TV viewing at age 29 months (over the average for each child) was linked to a range of effects, Pagani found, including:

  • 7% decrease in classroom engagement
  • 6% decrease in math achievement
  • 10% increase in being victimized by peers
  • 13% decrease in physical activity on weekends
  • 9% higher intake of soft drinks
  • 5% increase in probability of being overweight as calculated by BMI

Television Viewing and Kids: Other Opinions

The new findings are no surprise to Ed Christophersen, PhD, a clinical child psychologist at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo., who reviewed the study results for WebMD.

The new research, he says, documents what he and his colleagues have believed about the link between too much TV and developmental and other problems.

''This study pulls together multiple measures that many of us thought were affected by early TV, but now we know they are," Christophersen tells WebMD. He reminds parents that TV time limits should also include "screen" time from computers and other media.

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