Monday, November 05, 2007

Study on risks of toddlers watching TV

USA Today reports:
Study: Educational TV for toddlers OK

CHICAGO (AP) — Arthur and Barney are OK for toddler TV-watching. But not Rugrats and certainly not Power Rangers, reports a new study of early TV-watching and future attention problems.

The research involved children younger than 3, so TV is mostly a no-no anyway, according to the experts. But if TV is allowed, it should be of the educational variety, the researchers said.

Every hour per day that kids under 3 watched violent child-oriented entertainment their risk doubled for attention problems five years later, the study found. Even non-violent kids' shows like Rugrats and The Flintstones carried a still substantial risk for attention problems, though slightly lower. ...

Previous research and news reports on TV's effects have tended to view television as a single entity, without regard to content. But "the reality is that it's not inherently good or bad. It really depends on what they watch," said Dr. Dimitri Christakis, who co-authored the study with researcher Frederick Zimmerman.
Also, WebMD reports:
Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, tells WebMD that a 3-year-old who watches TV for two hours a day "has a 20% increased risk for attention problems at age 7 compared with a child who doesn't watch any TV."

Christakis says that the risk increases as TV watching increases so that "for each additional hour of television watched, the risk is increased by almost 10%."
But that is not what the actual research article concluded:
RESULTS. Data were available for 184 boys and 146 girls at both time periods. Adjusting for baseline Behavioral Problem Index scores and age, parental education, maternal depression, and cognitive and emotional support, violent television programming was associated with an increased risk for antisocial behavior for boys but not for girls. Neither educational nor nonviolent programming was associated with increased risk for boys or girls.

CONCLUSIONS. Viewing of violent programming by preschool boys is associated with subsequent aggressive behavior. Modifying the content that is viewed by young children may be warranted.
So the news article says that nonviolent shows can be a problem, but the research says not. The news article says that TV leads to "attention problems such as difficulty concentrating, being easily distracted, impulsiveness, or restlessness." The research article says that TV leads to "aggressive behavior".

In my opinion, you should ignore all of this and just use common sense. This is an example of supposed experts giving opinions outside their expertise. Pediatricians are experts on child medicine, but have no expertise in TV watching.

If watching Rugrats is really correlated with later attention problems or aggressive behavior, then there are several possible explanations. Maybe kids who inherit an attention problem have parents who don't pay attention to what the kids watch on TV. Maybe kids who already have an attention problem are bored by Sesame Street and prefer the faster-paced shows like Rugrats. Maybe the kids with the aggressive behavior are the healthy ones, and it is the kids who did not watch Rugrats who are overly-docile and have the problem.

The Pediatricians officially recommend that no children under the age of two be allowed to watch TV. I don't agree, and I believe that some TV shows can be beneficial.

No comments: