Sept. 4, 2007 — Kids who watch more than two hours of television per daymay be more likely than other children to have attention problems as teens.
That news appears in September’s edition of the journalPediatrics.
The finding comes from a study of more than 1,000 children born and raisedin New Zealand. First, psychologists tested and rated the children’s attentionat age 3 and 5 years.
When the kids were 5-11 years old, their parents reported how much TV thechildren watched on weekdays. When the kids were 13 and 15, they reported theirown weekday TV time.
On average, the kids watched about two hours of TV per weekday from age5-11, and they watched an extra hour of weekday TV as teens.
Any adolescent attention problems were noted by the teens themselves, aswell as their parents and teachers.
TV and Teens’ Attention
Watching more than the average amount of TV — in childhood or adolescence– was linked to teen attention problems, regardless of attention problems inearly childhood.
The study doesn’t prove that TV wrecks children’s attention.
The researchers — who included Carl Erik Landhuis, BA, and Robert JohnHancox, PhD, of New Zealand’s University of Otago — couldn’t control for allpossible influences on the children’s attention.
But Landhuis, Hancox, and colleagues note two theories about TV andchildren’s attention.
“One explanation targets brain development in early childhood,”write the researchers. That is, that watching television influences children’sbrain development.
“Another explanation is that life as it is portrayed on television, withits fast-paced editing and attention-grabbing techniques, makes reality seemboring by comparison,” the researchers write.
“Hence, children who watch a lot of television may become less tolerantof slower-paced and more mundane tasks, such as school work.”
The study doesn’t show what types of programs the kids watched, so it’s notclear whether TV shows’ content makes a difference. The data also doesn’t coverkids’ TV time before age 5.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which publishes the journalPediatrics, recommends that children younger than 2 get no “screentime,” which includes TV and videos.
The AAP also advises limiting older kids to no more than two hours ofquality TV and videos per day.