Attention Problems Due to TV Before 3

By Frederick Hecht, M.D. and Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Medical Authors and Editors, Medicine.com

April 5, 2004 -- An important new study has shown that the amount of children's television exposure at ages 1 and 3 directly relates to later attention problems. The report appeared in the April issue of Pediatrics.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Dimitri Christakis from the University of Washington in Seattle, said: "We found that watching television before the age of 3 increases the chances that children will develop attentional problems at age 7."

The study is especially convincing because of the systematic approach taken by Dr. Christakis and his team, their inclusion of a variety of variables, and the size of the group of children in the study.

The Study

Christakis and his team examined data on nearly 1,300 children from a major government survey of children and youth. They compared the rates of TV watching during the first three years of life to the presence of attention problems at age 7.

Christakis said that "for each additional daily hour of television that young children watched on average," the risk of having attentional problems by age 7 "increased by almost 10%."

This means that toddlers who watched eight hours of television a day "would have an 80% higher risk of attentional problems compared to a child who watched no TV."

American Academy of Pediatrics

The current guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend no "screen time" for children under 2 years old, no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality television and video for older children, and no electronic media in young children's rooms.