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.

Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. He is currently a contributor at Digital Trends, writing about everything from computers to how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more. 

  • Spooderman
    Good thing that my parents had enough sense not to buy me my own computer at age 3.
  • eklipz330
    i fear for our future generations just as past generations feared for us... but i think my reasons are more solid

    most consumer devices are purely for entertainment. you need to be somehow entertained 24/7 no matter what. it distances you from social events as well as increasing your chance of depression. not only that, but with all this technology at our disposal, people use it as a crutch. now that memorization is no longer needed, it's just going to get worse. then all tech will just stop working for one reason or another, and we'll just be helpless

    just my two cents. then again, im a self professed pessimist.
  • eklipz330
    now that i know why my high school didnt allow calculators, i appreciate it. my math skills are above average to peers of similar age.
  • Are you kidding me. Another "awesome" Canadian study - taxpayer money spend well, by a Marxist/Socialist academic.

    The TV watching has very little to do with it. The TV watching is only a reflection of the type of parenting 'inflicted' in the toddlers. So instead of taking accountability for poor parenting, this biased study goes on and absolves the incompetence of the parents involved. Don't blame the consumer devices (inanimate objects) for the lack of social skills exhibited by the about you look at the source, the parents. That is like blaming the knife for cutting your finger. And people eat this stuff up like gospel.
  • drwho1
    Keyboards are the cause of (insert expletive here) on the internet.
    Most people interviewed claimed that the "keyboard make them do it".

  • nebun
    this study is so wrong....very wrong...most kids these days are smarter because of the educational programing they watch on tv....most parents would rather have their kids watch tv instead of bothering them
  • GoldenI
    eklipz, who is to say that one simply does not benefit from social situations, rather it has a negative effect on some people?... There ARE introverts out there who simply prefer their own company over the company of another. Sure, some social skills are great to have; however, that being said, there is really no need to always want to go out and be social. I am perfectly fine spending my Friday nights alone, having a cup of tea or something of the sort.

    Each person is different. Also, pretty much every famous intellectual was introverted. Perhaps that is saying something?
  • b23h
    That's a hell of a lot of editorializing by the author of the article. I am particularly unimpressed by the characterization of the study as "silly."
  • MajinCry
    Coming up next: Eating fatty foods is bad for you!
  • CaedenV
    TV is a horrible horrible thing which should be banned entirely. Video media in general is something that should generally be avoided until middleschool or highschool after some discipline of critical thinking has been established.

    I am not saying that there should be no videos for kids. I have a 2 very young children, and I will freely admit that sometimes you just need a nap, or to get the dishes done, and sometimes a show or movie is the only thing you can trust to keep the kid's attention long enough for you to accomplish something without being bothered. But this should be the exception to the rule rather than the rule itself.

    But computer use is something else entirely. While TV (and video media in general) is by its very nature a passive medium which teaches people to accept what is presented to them, almost everything on a computer is interactive and at the very least teaches cause and effect relationships. Most things on a computer are allegorical or abstracted, which teaches kids critical thinking even from a young age. I had the good fortune of having a dad who worked in the tech industry when I was young, and was literally the only one of my high school class to have (and use) a computer before I went to school. Granted I am not the sort of person who is motivated enough to monetize my good fortune, but it has helped me to not fall into most of the same traps that my peers have fallen into. It taught me that I am in control of what I want to be exposed to, and that if I want a better life then I can expose my mind to those things which are helpful to following that path. Using computers as something other than a media consumption device makes people independent free thinkers who are slaves to nobody except for their own shortcomings.

    The big issue that we are having today though is that my generation which was brought up on TV now has a bunch of kids who are starting to use computers... but my generation is teaching the next generation to use computers as a purely media consumption device rather than the tool that it can be! And this is horribly sad! There are awesome kid's games, tools, and programs that can teach programming. The rise of the maker movement has brought so many great tools which could be used by schools and families to educate children to learn and discover the world around them and how it all works... but instead we are training up yet another generation of passive users who will mostly amount to nothing for lack of vision, parenting, and competent teachers.

    But I guess that is the point after all. When you are an incompetent parent (and we all start out that way) then it is easy to assume that those on TV who have 'made it' in life would be much better teachers than yourself. I just hope that those who read this have the courage to make mistakes while parenting rather than making the mistake of differing parenting to someone or something else.