Too Much TV, Too Little Attention

The more television that toddlers and preschoolers watch, the more attention problems they’ll have in subsequent years, a new study reveals. The study, by researchers at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, found that each hour of television a child, ages 1-3, watches per day elevates the risk of attention problems, including ADHD, by nearly 10 percent at age 7.

Published in the April issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, the study didn’t actually examine the content of television programs, but rather the link between television watching and attention problems in young children.

“This study suggests that there is a significant and important association between early exposure to television and subsequent attentional problems,”says Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, a pediatric researcher who led the study at the Seattle hospital. “There is a tremendous and growing reliance on television for a variety of reasons. However, parents should be advised to limit their young child’s television viewing.”

The findings support the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendations that parents limit their children’s exposure to television, computers and other screens to one or two hours per day. The AAP also recommends that parents avoid letting children under age 2 watch television at all.

Christakis points to national estimates that children ages 1-3 currently watch an average of two or three hours of TV each day and that up to 30 percent of all kids have a television in their bedroom. The study dealt with kids ages 1-3 because of previous research indicating that brain development is rapid during this period. Symptoms of attention problems, such as ADHD, don’t usually show up until later years, the researchers said.

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