Study Finds Extra Hour of TV is Bad for Toddlers

A recent report indicates that increasing TV watching an extra hour beyond recommendations diminishes a toddler's kindergarten chances. More specifically, every hourly increase in daily TV watching at 29 months of age is associated with diminished vocabulary and math skills, diminished classroom engagement, victimization by classmates, and physical prowess at kindergarten.

The news arrives by way of Professor Linda Pagani of the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine children's hospital. She conducted a study spanning 991 girls and 1006 boys in Quebec whose parents reported their television viewing behavior as part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. The screen viewing stemmed from a home-based setting, and did not include child care scenarios.

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"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 put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics."

She said the AAP discourages watching television during infancy and recommends not more than two hours per day beyond age 2. But she concludes that every extra hour beyond that has a remarkably negative influence. So how exactly did she come up with this number?

"The standard deviation is a commonly used statistical tool that tells us what is within a normal range compared to the average," she said. "One standard deviation from the average daily amount of television viewed by the toddlers in this sample (105 minutes) is 72 minutes. Some of the children who participated in the study were two or even three standard deviations away from the average, and their kindergarten indicators were correspondingly worse than those who were one standard deviation away."

The study obviously only takes one view into consideration. Based on her comments, it doesn't take the parents' economic status under consideration, their age, their educational status, or talk about the children doing the actual bullying. She also doesn't specify what the children are actually watching -- sure, if its garbage, children will consume garbage -- they're a sponge. The phrase "TV watching" is also too general of a term, and indicates that every kid who watches an hour beyond what the AAP dictates will mean being bullied and becoming a failure both academically and financially.

The "study," it seems, plays the blame game. It's like the whole "video games are corrupting America's youth" argument. They're supposedly making everyone angry and violent. Before them, the same thing could be said about television, movies and even comic books. The medium is not the problem. It's the other factors behind the scenes and those who place the medium in their hands. What's going on in the family unit? What's going on in the child's head? Are there hereditary factors involved?

She claims that kindergarten predicts future productivity. Here in North America, kindergarten is an option in many states; kids aren't required to attend public school until they are seven.