Too Much TV Puts Tots at Risk

Many Parents Not Heeding Warnings About Negative Effects of Too Much TV Viewing in Young Kids

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on July 15, 2010
From the WebMD Archives

July 15, 2010 -- Despite repeated warnings about the potentially negative effects on children who watch too much television, nearly 20% of 2-year-olds in Oregon watch TV or videos two or more hours daily, the CDC says.

CDC and Oregon Public Health Division officials analyzed 2006-2007 data from the Oregon Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring Survey involving 1,868 respondents, finding that 19.6% of 2-year-olds spend two hours or more watching TV or videos.

Among other findings:

  • 18.2% of the children had a TV in their bedrooms.
  • Children with a TV in their bedrooms were more likely to watch the tube for two hours or more.
  • Children who went on fewer than four outings during the week prior to the time their mothers were questioned also were much more likely to spend two hours or more watching TV or videos.
  • 14.5% of kids who went on four or more outings were less likely to watch more than two hours of TV.
  • Children who spent any time in a child care center were significantly less likely to watch two hours or more of TV or videos (7.8%), compared with 23.2% of kids not in day care.
  • 35.9% of non-Hispanic black mothers allowed their kids to view TV or videos for two hours or more, compared to 18.6% of non-Hispanic white mothers.

Too Much TV Linked to Developmental Problems

John Y. Oh, MD, MPH, the CDC epidemic intelligence officer with the Oregon State Public Health Division, says in an email that mothers were asked how much time their 2-year-olds spent watching TV or videos “so most probably interpreted ‘video’ as meaning watching a DVD or VCR video, as opposed to playing video games.”

In 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a guideline that children’s total exposure to TV and videos should be limited to no more than one to two hours of “quality programming” per day.

“These findings are comparable to a telephone survey of parents in Minnesota and Washington, which found that by age two years, 90% of children regularly watched television or videos, and the average viewing time amount those who watched was more than 1.5 hours per day,” the CDC says in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for July 16, 2010.

“Excessive exposure of children to television and videos (viewing time) is associated with impaired childhood development and childhood obesity,” the MMWR says.

It also says that too much viewing time by infants is associated with impaired cognitive, language, and emotional development and irregular sleep schedules.

The report adds that the Oregon findings suggest that health professionals, parents, and caregivers be aware of how much time their children watch TV and recommends that TVs be removed from kids’ bedrooms. It also suggests that other states conduct similar surveys.

The CDC warns that with the development of new forms of “engaging media,” viewing time of children could increase.

Show Sources


News release, CDC.

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol 59: pp 837-841.

John Y. Oh, MD, MPH, CDC epidemic intelligence service officer.

Oregon State Public Health Division.

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