WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
Sept. 4, 2007 -- Kids who watch more than two hours of television per day
may be more likely than other children to have attention problems as teens.
That news appears in September's edition of the journal
The finding comes from a study of more than 1,000 children born and raised
in New Zealand. First, psychologists tested and rated the children's attention
at age 3 and 5 years.
When the kids were 5-11 years old, their parents reported how much TV the
children watched on weekdays. When the kids were 13 and 15, they reported their
own weekday TV time.
On average, the kids watched about two hours of TV per weekday from age
5-11, and they watched an extra hour of weekday TV as teens.
Any adolescent attention problems were noted by the teens themselves, as
well as their parents and teachers.
Watching more than the average amount of TV -- in childhood or adolescence
-- was linked to teen attention problems, regardless of attention problems in
The study doesn't prove that TV wrecks children's attention.
The researchers -- who included Carl Erik Landhuis, BA, and Robert John
Hancox, PhD, of New Zealand's University of Otago -- couldn't control for all
possible influences on the children's attention.
But Landhuis, Hancox, and colleagues note two theories about TV and
"One explanation targets brain development in early childhood,"
write the researchers. That is, that watching television influences children's
"Another explanation is that life as it is portrayed on television, with
its fast-paced editing and attention-grabbing techniques, makes reality seem
boring by comparison," the researchers write.
"Hence, children who watch a lot of television may become less tolerant
of 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 not
clear whether TV shows' content makes a difference. The data also doesn't cover
kids' TV time before age 5.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which publishes the journal
Pediatrics, recommends that children younger than 2 get no "screen
time," which includes TV and videos.
The AAP also advises limiting older kids to no more than two hours of
quality TV and videos per day.
SOURCES: Landhuis, C. Pediatrics, September 2007; vol 120: pp
532-537. American Academy of Pediatrics: "Media Guidelines for
Parents." News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.
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