TV's Effect on Child Behavior Is in the Timing

October 2, 2007

BALTIMORE -- Television watching at a young age may be a set-up for behavioral problems later on, but not if early TV-watching habits are curtailed before age six, reported investigators here.

BALTIMORE, Oct. 2 -- Television watching at a young age may be a set-up for behavioral problems later on, but not if early TV-watching habits are curtailed before age six, reported investigators here.

Children younger than age three who watched more than two hours per day had poorer social skills than their peers exposed to less TV, reported Kamila B. Mistry, M.P.H., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and colleagues.

But children whose viewing hours tapered off between the ages of three and 5.5 had no increased risk for behavioral or social problems compared with children who were shielded from TV, the investigators wrote in the October issue of Pediatrics.

"It is vital for clinicians to emphasize the importance of reducing television viewing in early childhood among those children with early use," said Cynthia Minkovitz, M.D., M.P.P., a co-author.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against allowing children under age two to watch any television at all, and suggests that older children have shorter than two hours (ideally, one or less) of television and other entertainment media daily.

"Despite these recommendations, many young children are consuming significantly more than two hours of television viewing daily, and 36% of children

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