Toddlers and TV: Early exposure has negative and long-term impact

May 3, 2010, University of Montreal

Want kids who are smarter and thinner? Keep them away from the television set as toddlers. A shocking study from child experts at the Université de Montréal, the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center and the University of Michigan, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, has found that television exposure at age two forecasts negative consequences for kids, ranging from poor school adjustment to unhealthy habits.

"We found every additional hour of TV exposure among corresponded to a future decrease in classroom engagement and success at math, increased victimization by classmates, have a more sedentary lifestyle, higher consumption of junk food and, ultimately, higher body mass index," says lead author Dr. Linda S. Pagani, a psychosocial professor at the Université de Montréal and researcher at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center.

The goal of the study was to determine the impact of TV exposure at age 2 on future academic success, lifestyle choices and general well being among children. "Between the ages of two and four, even incremental exposure to delayed development," says Dr. Pagani.

A total of 1,314 kids took part in the investigation, which was part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development Main Exposure. Parents were asked to report how much TV their kids watched at 29 months and at 53 months in age. Teachers were asked to evaluate academic, psychosocial and health habits, while body mass index (BMI) was measured at 10 years old.

"Early childhood is a critical period for brain development and formation of behaviour," warns Dr. Pagani. "High levels of TV consumption during this period can lead to future unhealthy habits. Despite clear recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggesting less than two hours of TV per day - beyond the age of two - parents show poor factual knowledge and awareness of such existing guidelines."

According to the investigation, watchting too much TV as toddlers later forecasted:

  • a seven percentdecrease in classroom engagement;
  • a six percent decrease in math achievement (with no harmful effects on later reading);
  • a 10 percent increase in victimization by classmates (peer rejection, being teased, assaulted or insulted by other students);
  • a 13 percent decrease in weekend physical activity;
  • a nine percent decrease in general physical activity;
  • a nine percent higher consumption of soft drinks;
  • a 10 percent peak in snacks intake;
  • a five percent increase in BMI.
"Although we expected the impact of early TV viewing to disappear after seven and a half years of childhood, the fact that negative outcomes remained is quite daunting," says Dr. Pagani. "Our findings make a compelling public health argument against excessive TV viewing in early childhood and for parents to heed guidelines on TV exposure from the American Academy of Pediatrics."

Since TV exposure encourages a sedentary lifestyle, Dr. Pagani says, television viewing must be curbed for toddlers to avoid the maintenance of passive mental and physical habits in later childhood: "Common sense would have it that TV exposure replaces time that could be spent engaging in other developmentally enriching activities and tasks which foster cognitive, behavioral, and motor development."

"What's special about this study is how it confirms suspicions that have been out there and shown by smaller projects on one outcome or another. This study takes a comprehensive approach and considers many parental, pediatric and societal factors simultaneously," she adds.

More information: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine:

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not rated yet May 03, 2010
# a nine percent decrease in general physical activity;
# a none percent higher consumption of soft drinks;

NONE percent? Assuming normal typo generation, I think that should be nine, because I and O are adjacent letters on a keyboard.
not rated yet May 04, 2010
Television Commercials with Child targeted infomercials, unrated commercial content and lack of proper educational and motivational programming.

If you want happy children, show them television free from commercials, shows you can pause so they can come back to it. Teach them something and motivate them to be "Confident" children. I have 5 children, from 14 to 4 weeks old. All honor roll, perfect attendance, clean, dressed as well as can be expected and none of that has a thing to do with them. All of that is created and supported by the parent. If you want your child a certain way, don't complain that he is not that way. You make him that way, if you want a confident, driven child who aspires to great things. Then you instill that confidence in them as a core value then you help him realize that confidence through personal achievement.

Set a standard for your children, hold them to it. Make it reasonable and hold yourself to it. We need to stop blaming TV for everything that we do
not rated yet May 04, 2010
Here is an option I would suggest: - internet TV, you control and log all the content watched and you can get rid of commercials and outside influences. Does allot more than that, but from a Child's perspective you eliminate all outside influence except for what you want to show them.

The food results are funny, whenever you are bored and sitting around you eat. You could be reading which few do anymore, you could be sun tanning. To say that TV is a main reason for obesity is ridiculous. You should say "When people are bored, they get Fat or Pregnant and both have the same physical results" that would be fine, and be more accurate.
not rated yet May 11, 2010
The problem with these studies is that they never seem to measure any other activities. The potential for confounding variables is incredibly high in a situation like this.

I would like to see this study redone with measures for how many minutes a day the children were read to, and how many hours per week the children spent in physical activities in which the parent also participated. They should be measuring as many possibly important variables as possible.

Without attempting to account for confounding variables this study is useless.

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