School, health and behavior suffer when children have TV, video games in bedroom

September 26, 2017 by Angie Hunt, Iowa State University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A new Iowa State University study is one of the first to demonstrate the consequences of allowing children to have a TV or video game system in their bedroom.

Douglas Gentile, lead author and professor of psychology, says the research shows location really does matter. When there was a TV or games in the , spent less time reading, sleeping or participating in other activities, which had a ripple effect on several outcomes. As a result, these children did not do as well in school and were at greater risk for obesity and , Gentile said.

Researchers were able to track these effects over a period of six months to two years. The study, published in the journal Developmental Psychology, also found children with bedroom media watched programs and played video games that were more violent, which increased levels of . Gentile says it stands to reason that most parents are not fully aware of what is happening behind closed doors.

"When most children turn on the TV alone in their bedroom, they're probably not watching educational shows or playing educational games," Gentile said. "Putting a TV in the bedroom gives children 24-hour access and privatizes it in a sense, so as a parent you monitor less and control their use of it less."

The study utilizes data from Gentile's previous studies on and media content. While some of the results mirror the findings in those studies, Gentile says they found that having bedroom media significantly changes the amount of time children spend with media, changes the content they view, but also changes what children do not do, such as reading.

Digital media changes everything

Several studies have tracked changes in children's screen time. Gentile says that number continues to trend upward, nearing close to 60 hours a week that children spend in front of screens. National studies show that more than 40 percent of children, ages 4-6, have a TV in their bedroom, and a substantial majority of children 8 and older have a TV or video console in their bedrooms.

Iowa State's Douglas Gentile explains the risks of allowing children to have a TV or video game system in their bedroom. Credit: Dave Olson

While this study looked specifically at TVs and video games in the bedroom, Gentile expects the effects to be the same, if not stronger, given the access children now have to digital devices. He has talked with parents worried about their child's digital media use or how best to set limits. Their concerns range from children accessing questionable content to responding in the middle of the night to text messages or social media alerts, he said.

It is a challenge Gentile says he too has faced as a parent, but he encourages others to keep media out of their children's bedroom. It may cause a battle in the short term, but will benefit children in the long term.

"It's a lot easier for parents to never allow a TV in the bedroom than it is to take it out," he said. "It's a question every parent must face, but there is a simple two-letter answer. That two-letter answer is tough, but it is worth it."

Indirect, but significant effect

It may be natural for parents to wonder why a TV in the bedroom is any different from any other room in the home. Gentile says it comes down to ease of access. There is no direct link between the physical presence of a TV and poor grades. Rather, bedroom media makes it easier for children to spend more time watching or playing, which displaces other beneficial and healthful activities.

For example, researchers tracked children over a period of 13 and 24 months and found bedroom (both TV and video games) increased total screen time, which indirectly affected school grades. The data pointed to one explanation – third through fifth grade students who spent more time watching TV, spent less time reading. According to the study, increased screen time was also associated with higher body mass index, physical aggression and symptoms of addiction.

"We know from decades of research on addiction that the No. 1 predictor of addiction is access. You can't be addicted to gambling, if there is no place to gamble," Gentile said. "Access is certainly the gateway to a wide range of effects, both positive and negative."

Explore further: Children with bedroom TVs at significantly higher risk of being overweight

Related Stories

Children with bedroom TVs at significantly higher risk of being overweight

June 5, 2017
A UCL-led study of over 12,000 young children in the UK has revealed that 11-year-olds who had TVs in their bedroom at age 7 had a significantly higher body mass (BMI) and fat mass (FMI) and were more likely to be overweight ...

Noted researcher addresses multiple dimensions of video game effects in new journal article

May 10, 2011
Douglas Gentile is painfully aware of how research on the effects of video games on kids is often oversimplified to say that games are either "good" or "bad." The associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University ...

Limiting screen time yields mulitple benefits, ISU study finds

March 31, 2014
Parents may not always see it, but efforts to limit their children's screen time can make a difference. A new study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found children get more sleep, do better in school, behave better and see ...

Teach your kids to use media in healthy ways

January 30, 2017
(HealthDay)—Some pediatric health experts may have loosened the reins a bit on "screen time" for the youngest of children, but that doesn't mean parents should rely on electronic devices as babysitters, one pediatrician ...

What's the psychological effect of violent video games on children?

June 29, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- This week, the United States Supreme Court overturned a California law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to minors. But can a child’s behavior be directly influenced by playing a violent ...

Researchers find video games influence sexist attitudes

March 28, 2017
There are distinct similarities in the way women are portrayed in many popular video games. Female characters are typically attractive, scantily clad, appear in sexually suggestive ways and generally have limited roles.

Recommended for you

Use of alternative medicines has doubled among kids, especially teens

June 18, 2018
A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics shows that since 2003, the use of alternative medicines, such as herbal products and nutraceuticals, among children has doubled. The University of Illinois at Chicago researchers who ...

Virtual reality headsets significantly reduce children's fear of needles

June 18, 2018
The scenario is all too familiar for the majority of parents. The crying, the screaming and the tantrums as they try to coax their children into the doctor's office for routine immunizations. After all, who can't relate to ...

Both quantity and quality of sleep affect cardiovascular risk factors in adolescents

June 15, 2018
A study from a research team led by a MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) physician finds that both the quantity and quality of sleep—the amount of time spent sleeping and the percentage of sleep that is undisturbed—in ...

Ingesting honey after swallowing button battery reduces injury and improves outcomes

June 11, 2018
A team of ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists has demonstrated that eating honey after swallowing a button battery has the potential to reduce serious injuries in small children. Based on findings in laboratory animals, ...

Bifidobacteria supplement colonizes gut of breastfed infants

June 10, 2018
Supplementing breastfed infants with activated Bifidobacterium infantis (B. infantis) bacteria had a positive impact on babies' gut microbes for up to a year, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of ...

Fish oil may protect the youngest hearts

June 8, 2018
(HealthDay)—Omega-3 fatty acids—good fats found in fish—can boost the heart health of adults, but a new study suggests that babies might also stand to benefit from them.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.