July 4, 2005

TV is bad for children’s education, studies say

By Andrew Stern

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The more time children spend watching
television the poorer they perform academically, according to
three studies published on Monday.

Excessive television viewing has been blamed for increasing
rates of childhood obesity and for aggressive behavior, while
its impact on schooling have been inconclusive, researchers

But studies published on the topic in this month's Archives
of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine concluded television
viewing tended to have an adverse effect on academic pursuits.

For instance, children in third grade (approximately 8
years old) who had televisions in their bedrooms -- and
therefore watched more TV -- scored lower on standardized tests
than those who did not have sets in their rooms.

In contrast, the study found having a home computer with
access to the Internet resulted in comparatively higher test

"Consistently, those with a bedroom television but no home
computer access had, on average, the lowest scores and those
with home computer access but no bedroom television had the
highest scores," wrote study author Dina Borzekowski of Johns
Hopkins University in Baltimore.

American homes with children have an average of nearly
three televisions each, the report said, and children with
televisions in their bedrooms averaged nearly 13 hours of
viewing a week compared to nearly 11 hours by children who did
not have their own sets.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has urged parents to
limit children's television viewing to no more than one to two
hours per day -- and to try to keep younger children away from
TV altogether.


In two other studies published in the same journal,
children who regularly watched television before the age of 3
ended up with lower test scores later on, and children and
adolescents who watched more television were less likely to go
on to finish high school or earn a college degree.

University of Washington researchers reported that 59
percent of U.S. children younger than age 2 watch an average of
1.3 hours of television per day, though there is no programing
of proven educational value for children that young.

Their analysis of 1,800 children over a decade showed
television watching was linked to poorer cognitive development
among children younger than 3 and between the ages of 6 and 7.

TV watching appeared to help 3- to 5-year-olds with basic
reading recognition and short-term memory, but not reading
comprehension or mathematics, so the net effect of television
watching is "limited in its beneficial impact," wrote study
author Frederick Zimmerman.

Similarly, Robert Hancox of the University of Otago,
Dunedin, New Zealand, found that children and adolescents who
watched more television had less educational attainment
regardless of their intelligence, socioeconomic status or
childhood behavioral problems.

But condemning television as a vast wasteland -- government
regulator Newton Minow's oft-quoted diatribe against the medium
-- would be unfair as programing is not "monolithic," an
editorial accompanying the studies said.

"Parents should be encouraged to incorporate well-produced,
age-appropriate educational TV into their children's lives.
Such programing represents a valuable tool for stimulating
children's cognitive development," wrote Ariel Chernin and
Deborah Linebarger of the University of Pennsylvania.