Impacts of TV on Infants and Toddlers: What Research Shows the Misconception and Real Negative Impacts

Based on the results of nine studies, there are some warnings and misconceptions about the impacts of watching TV on infants' and toddlers' development.

Be wary of the long-term impacts of attentional problems: Early TV-viewing is associated with children's attentional problems later at ages 7-8, even though the attentional problems may not appear while they are toddlers.

There are some myths about the negative impacts on communication skills. Based on the findings of three studies, early TV-viewing not exceeding 2 hours per day is neither beneficial nor detrimental to children's communication skills. However, bear in mind that it may be better to wait until after 16 months to allow your child to watch TV because one study specifically indicated that even though TV-viewing after16 months is not associated with decreased communication skills, TV-viewing before 16 months is.

If your child is going to watch TV, make sure he/she watches child-targeted programs only: Viewing child-targeted TV programs is not detrimental to mental development. However, viewing adult-targeted TV programs at age 1 is associated with weaker thinking abilities at age 4.

Consider viewing high quality child-directed TV programs: There are a number of TV programs that are beneficial to children's language development and communication skills. One study showed that watching programs such as Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues, Arthur, Clifford, and Dragon Tales resulted in greater vocabulary and higher expressive language scores. However, one study found that there are a number of TV programs which are detrimental to children's language development or communication skills. Watching Teletubbies was related to less vocabulary and lower expressive language scores; watching Sesame Street was related to lower expressive language scores; and viewing Barney & Friends was related to less vocabulary but to more expressive language.

Finally, there is a myth about the association between TV-viewing and the early onset of myopia. According to a longitudinal study, as long as the child doesn’t sit too close to the screen, TV-viewing by toddlers is NOT associated with early onset of myopia. Actually, it is family history of myopia that is the greatest factor in the early onset of myopia.

Created on November 21 2015 at 08: 00 AM


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Details of Scientific Answers: Click on each bullet to Read References

References:

1: "Infants' And Toddlers' Television Viewing And Language Outcomes," American Behavioral Scientist, 2005, by DL Linebarger, D Walker. (Citations: 253).

Abstract: Viewing data were reported every 3 months beginning at 6 months of age by the parents of 51 infants and toddlers. Viewing logs were coded for program, content, and intended audience. Using hierarchical linear modeling techniques, growth curves examining relationships between television exposure and the child’s vocabulary knowledge and expressive language skills were modeled. Parent’s education, child’s home environment, and child’s cognitive performance were statistically controlled. The findings support the importance of content and program type when describing media effects. At 30 months of age, watching Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues, Arthur, Clifford, or Dragon Tales resulted in greater vocabularies and higher expressive language scores; watching Teletubbies was related to fewer vocabulary words and smaller expressive language scores; watching Sesame Street was related only to smaller expressive language scores; and viewing Barney & Friends was related to fewer vocabulary words and more expressive language. Reasons for differences are discussed.


References:

1: "Associations Between Media Viewing And Language Development In Children Under Age 2 Years," The Journal Of Pediatrics, 2007, by FJ Zimmerman, DA Christakis, AN Meltzoff. (Citations: 184).

Objective To test the association of media exposure with language development in children under age 2 years. Study design A total of 1008 parents of children age 2 to 24 months, identified by birth certificates, were surveyed by telephone in February 2006. Questions were asked about child and parent demographics, child-parent interactions, and child’s viewing of several content types of television and DVDs/videos. Parents were also asked to complete the short form of the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (CDI). The associations between normed CDI scores and media exposure were evaluated using multivariate regression, controlling for parent and child demographics and parent–child interactions. Results Among infants (age 8 to 16 months), each hour per day of viewing baby DVDs/videos was associated with a 16.99-point decrement in CDI score in a fully adjusted model (95% confidence interval = −26.20 to −7.77). Among toddlers (age 17 to 24 months), there were no significant associations between any type of media exposure and CDI scores. Amount of parental viewing with the child was not significantly associated with CDI scores in either infants or toddlers. Conclusions Further research is required to determine the reasons for an association between early viewing of baby DVDs/videos and poor language development.


2: "Television Viewing In Infancy And Child Cognition At 3 Years Of Age In A Us Cohort," Pediatrics, 2009, by ME Schmidt, M Rich, SL Rifas-Shiman, E Oken. (Citations: 68).

OBJECTIVE. To examine the extent to which infant television viewing is associated with language and visual motor skills at 3 years of age. MEASURES. We studied 872 children who were participants in Project Viva, a prospective cohort. The design used was a longitudinal survey, and the setting was a multisite group practice in Massachusetts. At 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years, mothers reported the number of hours their children watched television in a 24-hour period, from which we derived a weighted average of daily television viewing. We used multivariable regression analyses to predict the independent associations of television viewing between birth and 2 years with Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test III and Wide-Range Assessment of Visual Motor Abilities scores at 3 years of age. RESULTS. Mean daily television viewing in infancy (birth to 2 years) was 1.2 (SD: 0.9) hours, less than has been found in other studies of this age group. Mean Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test III score at age 3 was 104.8 (SD: 14.2); mean standardized total Wide-Range Assessment of Visual Motor Abilities score at age 3 was 102.6 (SD: 11.2). After adjusting for maternal age, income, education, Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test III score, marital status, and parity, and child's age, gender, birth weight for gestational age, breastfeeding duration, race/ethnicity, primary language, and average daily sleep duration, we found that each additional hour of television viewing in infancy was not associated with Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test III or total standardized Wide-Range Assessment of Visual Motor Abilities scores at age 3. CONCLUSION. Television viewing in infancy does not seem to be associated with language or visual motor skills at 3 years of age.


References:

1: "Early Television Exposure And Subsequent Attentional Problems In Children," Pediatrics, 2004, by DA Christakis, FJ Zimmerman, DL DiGiuseppe. (Citations: 691).

Objective. Cross-sectional research has suggested that television viewing may be associated with decreased attention spans in children. However, longitudinal data of early television exposure and subsequent attentional problems have been lacking. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that early television exposure (at ages 1 and 3) is associated with attentional problems at age 7. Methods. We used the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a representative longitudinal data set. Our main outcome was the hyperactivity subscale of the Behavioral Problems Index determined on all participants at age 7. Children who were ≥1.2 standard deviations above the mean were classified as having attentional problems. Our main predictor was hours of television watched daily at ages 1 and 3 years. Results. Data were available for 1278 children at age 1 and 1345 children at age 3. Ten percent of children had attentional problems at age 7. In a logistic regression model, hours of television viewed per day at both ages 1 and 3 was associated with attentional problems at age 7 (1.09 [1.03–1.15] and 1.09 [1.02–1.16]), respectively. Conclusions. Early television exposure is associated with attentional problems at age 7. Efforts to limit television viewing in early childhood may be warranted, and additional research is needed.


2: "Associations Between Content Types Of Early Media Exposure And Subsequent Attentional Problems," Pediatrics, 2007, by FJ Zimmerman, DA Christakis. (Citations: 146).

OBJECTIVE. Television and video/DVD viewing among very young children has become both pervasive and heavy. Previous studies have reported an association between early media exposure and problems with attention regulation but did not have data on the content type that children watched. We tested the hypothesis that early television viewing of 3 content types is associated with subsequent attentional problems. The 3 different content types are educational, nonviolent entertainment, and violent entertainment. METHODS. Participants were children in a nationally representative sample collected in 1997 and reassessed in 2002. The analysis was a logistic regression of a high score on a validated parent-reported measure of attentional problems, regressed on early television exposure by content and several important sociodemographic control variables. RESULTS. Viewing of educational television before age 3 was not associated with attentional problems 5 years later. However, viewing of either violent or non-violent entertainment television before age 3 was significantly associated with subsequent attentional problems, and the magnitude of the association was large. Viewing of any content type at ages 4 to 5 was not associated with subsequent problems. CONCLUSIONS. The association between early television viewing and subsequent attentional problems is specific to noneducational viewing and to viewing before age 3.


References:

1: "Infants' And Toddlers' Television Viewing And Language Outcomes," American Behavioral Scientist, 2005, by DL Linebarger, D Walker. (Citations: 253).

Abstract: Viewing data were reported every 3 months beginning at 6 months of age by the parents of 51 infants and toddlers. Viewing logs were coded for program, content, and intended audience. Using hierarchical linear modeling techniques, growth curves examining relationships between television exposure and the child’s vocabulary knowledge and expressive language skills were modeled. Parent’s education, child’s home environment, and child’s cognitive performance were statistically controlled. The findings support the importance of content and program type when describing media effects. At 30 months of age, watching Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues, Arthur, Clifford, or Dragon Tales resulted in greater vocabularies and higher expressive language scores; watching Teletubbies was related to fewer vocabulary words and smaller expressive language scores; watching Sesame Street was related only to smaller expressive language scores; and viewing Barney & Friends was related to fewer vocabulary words and more expressive language. Reasons for differences are discussed.


References:

1: "Debating The Impact Of Television And Video Material On Very Young Children: Attention, Learning, And The Developing Brain," Child Development Perspectives, 2009, by ML Courage, AE Setliff. (Citations: 32).

ABSTRACT—The debate about the potential of television and video material to enhance or diminish cognitive development in infants and toddlers has been complicated by speculation regarding the relation between early exposure to these media and the developing brain. Those on both sides of the debate draw on findings from developmental and neuroscience literatures to make explicit or implicit arguments that video experience during the first 2 or 3 years can have a unique and powerful impact on learning that cannot be readily duplicated or undone outside this sensitive period of development. This article tries to put such speculation into perspective by considering it within the framework of W. T. Greenough, J. T. Black, and C. S. Wallace’s (1987) distinction between experience-expectant and experience-dependent plasticity. Data from infant-learning and attention research are used to illustrate how this distinction illuminates both sides of the debate.


References:

1: "Debating The Impact Of Television And Video Material On Very Young Children: Attention, Learning, And The Developing Brain," Child Development Perspectives, 2009, by ML Courage, AE Setliff. (Citations: 32).

ABSTRACT—The debate about the potential of television and video material to enhance or diminish cognitive development in infants and toddlers has been complicated by speculation regarding the relation between early exposure to these media and the developing brain. Those on both sides of the debate draw on findings from developmental and neuroscience literatures to make explicit or implicit arguments that video experience during the first 2 or 3 years can have a unique and powerful impact on learning that cannot be readily duplicated or undone outside this sensitive period of development. This article tries to put such speculation into perspective by considering it within the framework of W. T. Greenough, J. T. Black, and C. S. Wallace’s (1987) distinction between experience-expectant and experience-dependent plasticity. Data from infant-learning and attention research are used to illustrate how this distinction illuminates both sides of the debate.


References:

1: "Family History, Near Work, Outdoor Activity, And Myopia In Singapore Chinese Preschool Children," British Journal of Ophthalmology, 2010, by W Low, M Dirani, G Gazzard, YH Chan. (Citations: 63).

Abstract Aims To investigate the risk factors for myopia, including near work and outdoor activity, in Singapore Chinese preschool children. Methods A cross-sectional study, with disproportionate random sampling by 6-month age groups, of 3009 Singapore Chinese children aged 6–72 months was performed. Information on family history, near work and outdoor activity was obtained. Spherical equivalent refraction (SER) was assessed. Results Children with two myopic parents were more likely to be myopic (adjusted OR=1.91; 95% CI 1.38 to 2.63) and to have a more myopic SER (regression coefficient=−0.35; 95% CI −0.47 to −0.22) than children without myopic parents. For each 1 cm taller height, the SER was more myopic by 0.01 dioptres. Neither near work nor outdoor activity was associated with preschool myopia. Conclusions A family history of myopia was the strongest factor associated with preschool myopia. In contrast, neither near work nor outdoor activity was found to be associated with early myopia. These data suggest that genetic factors may play a more substantial role in the development of early-onset myopia than key environmental factors.


References:

1: "The Value Of Reanalysis: Tv Viewing And Attention Problems," Child Development, 2010, by EM Foster, S Watkins. (Citations: 47).

Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (N = 1,159), this study reexamines the link between maternal reports of television viewing at ages 1 and 3 and attention problems at age 7. This work represents a reanalysis and extension of recent research suggesting young children’s television viewing causes subsequent attention problems. The nonlinear specification reveals the association between television watching and attention problems exists—if at all—only at very high levels of viewing. Adding 2 covariates to the regression model eliminated even this modest effect. The earlier findings are not robust. This study also considers whether its own findings are sensitive to unobserved confounding using fixed-effects estimation. In general, it finds no meaningful relation between television viewing and attention problems.



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Impacts of TV on Infants and Toddlers: What Research Shows the Misconception and Real Negative Impacts

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