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More TV linked to problems in toddlers

Aug. 8, 2013
Courtesy of the University of Montreal
and World Science staff

For tod­dlers a bit more than two years old, eve­ry ex­tra hour of daily TV watch­ing is linked to poorer vo­cab­u­lary, math and phys­i­cal skills by kin­der­gar­ten time, a study has found.

The Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Pe­di­at­rics rec­om­mends no more than two hours a day of tel­e­vi­sion watch­ing af­ter age two, and none be­fore then.

Lin­da Pa­gani of the Uni­vers­ity of Mont­real and col­leagues found in the study that among 24-month-old chil­dren, eve­ry hour of daily tel­e­vi­sion be­yond two hours is as­so­ci­at­ed at kin­der­gar­ten with low­er vo­cab­u­lary and math skills, less class­room en­gage­ment, vic­tim­iz­a­tion by class­mates, and lower phys­i­cal prow­ess. 

The study is pub­lished in the June 20 is­sue of the jour­nal Pe­di­at­ric Re­search.

“This is the first time ev­er that a strin­gently con­trolled as­socia­t­ional birth co­hort study has looked at and found a rela­t­ion­ship be­tween too much tod­dler screen time and kin­der­gar­ten risks for poor mo­tor skills and psy­cho­so­cial dif­fi­cul­ties,” Pa­gani said. 

“Much of the re­search on school read­i­ness has fo­cused on how kin­der­gar­ten char­ac­ter­is­tics pre­dict lat­er suc­cess,” she added. “My fo­cus has been to ex­am­ine what pre­dicts kin­der­gar­ten en­try char­ac­ter­is­tics.” 

“I al­so wanted to fo­cus on ne­glected yet cru­cial as­pects of school read­i­ness such as mo­tor skills, which pre­dict lat­er phys­i­cal ac­ti­vity and read­ing skills, like­li­hood of be­ing ‘picked on,’ which pre­dict so­cial dif­fi­cul­ties, and skills at linked to do­ing what you are sup­posed to be do­ing when hav­ing been giv­en in­struc­tions.”

These skills “are in turn linked to at­ten­tion sys­tems that are reg­u­lat­ed by the brain’s front­al lobe de­vel­op­ment,” she said.

The study sam­pled 991 girls and 1006 boys in Que­bec whose par­ents re­ported their tel­e­vi­sion view­ing habits as part of a sur­vey known as the Que­bec Lon­gi­tu­di­nal Study of Child De­vel­op­ment.


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Every extra hour of daily TV watching for toddlers a bit more than two years old is linked to poorer vocabulary, math and physical skills by kindergarten, a study has found. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours a day of television watching after age two, and none before then. Linda Pagani of the University of Montreal and colleagues found in the study that 24-month-old children, every hour of daily television beyond two hours is associated with lower vocabulary and math skills, classroom engagement, victimization by classmates, and physical prowess at kindergarten. The study is published in the June 20 issue of the journal Pediatric Research. “This is the first time ever that a stringently controlled associational birth cohort study has looked at and found a relationship between too much toddler screen time and kindergarten risks for poor motor skills and psychosocial difficulties, like victimization by classmates,” Pagani said. “These findings suggest the need for better parental awareness and compliance with existing viewing recommendations.” “Much of the research on school readiness has focused on how kindergarten characteristics predict later success,” she added. “My focus has been to examine what predicts kindergarten entry characteristics.” “I also wanted to focus on neglected yet crucial aspects of school readiness such as motor skills, which predict later physical activity and reading skills, likelihood of being ‘picked on,’ which predict social difficulties, and skills at linked to doing what you are supposed to be doing when having been given instructions.” These skills “are in turn linked to attention systems that are regulated by the brain’s frontal lobe development,” she went on. The study sampled 991 girls and 1006 boys in Quebec whose parents reported their television viewing habits as part of a survey known as the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development.