Bot­tle, crib and Jerry Springer: Ma­jor­ity of ba­bies ‘big’ TV watch­ers

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Julie Steen­huy­sen

CHICAGO — About 90 per­cent of U.S. chil­dren un­der age 2 and as many as 40 per­cent of in­fants un­der three months are reg­u­lar watch­ers of television, DVDs and videos, re­searchers said on May 7.

They said the num­ber of young chil­dren watch­ing TV is much greater than ex­pected.

“We don’t know from the study whether it is good or bad. What we know is that it is big,” said Fred­er­ick Zim­mer­man of the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton, whose re­search ap­pears in the Archives of Pe­di­atrics & Ado­les­cent Medicine.

A sec­ond study sug­gested ex­ces­sive TV view­ing can lead to at­ten­tion and learn­ing prob­lems for teenagers.

The Amer­i­can Academy of Pedi- atrics es­ti­mates that chil­dren in the United States watch about four hours of television ev­ery day. They rec­om­mend that chil­dren un­der age 2 not watch any television and that older chil­dren watch no more than 2 hours a day of qual­ity pro­gram­ming.

But 29 per­cent of par­ents sur­veyed by Mr. Zim­mer­man and col­leagues think baby-ori­ented TV and DVD pro­grams of­fer ed­u­ca­tional ben­e­fits.

“Par­ents are get­ting the mes­sage loud and clear from mar­keters of TV and videos that this is good for their kids. That it will help their brain de­vel­op­ment. [. . . ] None of this stuff has ever been proven,” Mr. Zim­mer­man said.

For their study, Mr. Zim­mer­man’s team con­ducted ran­dom tele­phone sur­veys of more than 1,000 fam­i­lies with young chil­dren in Min­nesota and Wash­ing­ton.

They found 90 per­cent of chil­dren un­der age 2 and 40 per­cent of in­fants un­der three months watched TV reg­u­larly.

At 3 months, chil­dren watched less than an hour per day, but by 24 months, they watched more than 1.5 hours per day.

About half of the shows watched were in the ed­u­ca­tional cat­e­gory, with the re­main­der split evenly among none­d­u­ca­tional chil­dren’s con­tent, baby DVDs or videos and adult TV.

In a sep­a­rate sur­vey of 1,051 par­ents pub­lished in the jour­nal Pe­di­atrics, 75 per­cent of chil­dren aged 6 and un­der were found to watch TV ev­ery day, of­ten in their own bed­rooms.

“We don’t know that it is bad, but we don’t know that it is harm­less,” Mr. Zim­mer­man said.

A sec­ond study in the Archives of Pe­di­atrics & Ado­les­cent Medicine found that teens who watch three to four hours of television a day are more likely to have at­ten­tion or learn­ing prob­lems and are less likely to get a col­lege de­gree.

“Even watch­ing more than an hour of TV per day had some ad­verse con­se­quences, but three hours was much worse than one hour, and two was worse than one,” Jef­frey John­son of Columbia Univer­sity Col­lege of Physi­cians and Sur­geons and the New York State Psy­chi­atric In­sti­tute said in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

Mr. John­son and col­leagues stud­ied 678 fam­i­lies in New York state over more than 20 years.

“Kids who watched less than one hour of TV per day were twice as likely to go to col­lege as those who watched three or more hours per day,” he said.

Just 12 per­cent of the par­ents whose chil­dren watched less than an hour of television a day said their child “hardly ever does home­work,” com­pared to 21 per­cent of those who watched one to three hours a day and 27 per­cent of those who watched more than three hours a day.

Par­ents said 22 per­cent of teens who watched less than an hour a day were of­ten bored at school, com­pared to 35 per­cent of the mod­er­ate watch­ers and 42 per­cent of those who watched three hours or more.

The re­sult was the same re­gard­less of so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus.

Mr. John­son said he thinks TV may be short­en­ing teens’ at­ten­tion spans. “Over time, it could re­ally dumb down so­ci­ety,” he said.

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