The more time children spend watching television the poorer
they perform academically, according to three recently published
Excessive television viewing has been blamed for increasing
rates of childhood obesity and for aggressive behavior,
while its impact on schooling have been inconclusive, researchers
But studies published on the topic in this month's Archives
of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine concluded television
viewing tended to have an adverse effect on academic pursuits.
For instance, children in third grade (approximately 8
years old) who had televisions in their bedrooms -- and
therefore watched more TV -- scored lower on standardized
tests than those who did not have sets in their rooms.
In contrast, the study found having a home computer with
access to the Internet resulted in comparatively higher
"Consistently, those with a bedroom television but no home
computer access had, on average, the lowest scores and those
with home computer access but no bedroom television had
the highest scores," wrote study author Dina Borzekowski
of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
American homes with children have an average of nearly
three televisions each, the report said, and children with
televisions in their bedrooms averaged nearly 13 hours of
viewing a week compared to nearly 11 hours by children who
did not have their own sets.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has urged parents to
limit children's television viewing to no more than one
to two hours per day -- and to try to keep younger children
away from TV altogether.
In two other studies published in the same journal, children
who regularly watched television before the age of 3 ended
up with lower test scores later on, and children and adolescents
who watched more television were less likely to go on to
finish high school or earn a college degree.
University of Washington researchers reported that 59 percent
of U.S. children younger than age 2 watch an average of
1.3 hours of television per day, though there is no programing
of proven educational value for children that young.
Their analysis of 1,800 children over a decade showed television
watching was linked to poorer cognitive development among
children younger than 3 and between the ages of 6 and 7.
TV watching appeared to help 3- to 5-year-olds with basic
reading recognition and short-term memory, but not reading
comprehension or mathematics, so the net effect of television
watching is "limited in its beneficial impact," wrote study
author Frederick Zimmerman.
Similarly, Robert Hancox of the University of Otago, Dunedin,
New Zealand, found that children and adolescents who watched
more television had less educational attainment regardless
of their intelligence, socioeconomic status or childhood
But condemning television as a vast wasteland -- government
regulator Newton Minow's oft-quoted diatribe against the
medium -- would be unfair as programing is not "monolithic,"
an editorial accompanying the studies said.
"Parents should be encouraged to incorporate well-produced,
age-appropriate educational TV into their children's lives.
Such programing represents a valuable tool for stimulating
children's cognitive development," wrote Ariel Chernin and
Deborah Linebarger of the University of Pennsylvania.