The effects of television on toddlers

A study out of the University of Montreal and the University of Michigan has found that television watching toddlers may suffer negative effects years later. This is one of the few studies that has followed children from toddler age to their early years in the classroom, the LA Times reports.

1,314 children were enrolled in the study. In order to determine any possible effects, parents reported on the levels of television watching at ages 2 ½ and 4 ½, while both parents and teachers evaluated the children’s academic and lifestyle habits at the age of ten. The study found that when 29 months old, toddlers watched an average of 8.82 hours of television per week. At the age of 4 ½ years, that amount increased to an average of 14.85 hours per week.

Time’s Wellness blog reports that each additional hour of television that children watched at 2 ½ years old, was associated with a 7 percent decrease in classroom engagement and a 6 percent decrease in math achievement. It also corresponded with a 13 percent decrease in physical activity on weekends, as well as a 10 percent increase in video-game playing and a 10 percent greater possibility of being bullied by classmates.

Here are some options to consider, according to Time:

The AAP and pediatricians encourage parents to minimize the TV toll by keeping televisions sets out of kids’ bedrooms, monitoring what they watch and watching TV with their children and discussing the content — at the very least, TV can help spur intellectually stimulating and engaging conversation within families.

This study is published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

9 Responses to The effects of television on toddlers

  1. Kyle Huff says:

    When did this place turn in to a press feed? Where’s the critical examination of claims vs. data?
    If I wanted to read Time’s Wellness Blog, I would go there.

    • I’m sorry Kyle, our resources are very limited and sometimes we just have to keep things fresh with mere links on the blog!

      • Kip Hansen says:


        Maybe your kind readers would ‘volunteer’ to check out original the published studies that your team can’t get to, and post their ‘first blush’ analysis in comments to your blog entry.

        I would have volunteered for this one, but for the fact the the original article is behind a ‘pay-wall’.

  2. Ken Chicago says:

    Actually, this is great. We need to use this to ban television and limit broadcasting to two hours per day. If we could get rid of the dorky network shows and the news channels we could eliminate 90% of the ignorance and 100% of the misinformation in America. Let’s use this to shut down the TV networks! Sure we create some unemployment of news journalists, but they can all get jobs supply excrement to a manure vendor!

  3. John S. says:

    This one seems like a clear case of confusing correlation with causation. Perhaps there is some hidden variable — call it sociability — that affects a variety of behaviors. Children with low sociability are more likely to spend time in front of a TV as a toddler, and less likely to engage with their teachers once they enter school. If this is the case — and it seems more likely than not — then limiting children’s time in front of the TV as toddlers will have no effect on their classroom achievement later in life.

  4. Jason says:

    As reported this is a terrible study. You simply cannot discretely measure data at age 4 and then then at 10 and discern any causative effect.

    It is much, much, much more likely that parents who let their kids indulge in TV at 4 also let them indulge in TV at 10. Moreover, kids who are visually engaged in activities may simply do worse in academic environments. Which would mean that this is yet another pick-the-strawman study.

    I also have the anecdotal evidence that parents engaged in their kids’ educations have kids that do better. I’ve also observed that most parents, even ones who claim education is important, have only a passing engagement in their kids’ educations.

  5. Marcell says:

    What is your earliest memory?

  6. terry33 says:

    It’s true that correlation is not causation, nevertheless studies looking at correlation are still important, and there have been hundreds of studies finding a correlation between lots of TV and negative behavior.
    There have also been a number of studies that looked tried to untangle the question of correlation versus causation with regards to TV.
    In these studies, children (or adults) were randomly divided into 2 groups. One group to watch less TV and the other group to watch the same amount of TV. Guess what, the children (or adults) randomly assigned to the less-TV group improved their behavior (or cognitive ability, or BMI), while the same-amount-of-TV group did not improve.

  7. new mom says:

    new mom…

    […]The effects of television on toddlers «[…]…

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