Turn off the tube....
Being a parent is hard, and the television, DVD player and computer can all become gratefully received babysitters. But while some time spent watching them is fine, there have long been concerns that too much time in front of the box can have negative effects. These range from obesity to violence.
The new study – which is published in the current issue of the Journal Pediatrics – involved a long-term study of more than 1,000 children. It recorded the time they spent watching television between the ages of five and 11 and then looked at reported attention problems between the ages of 13 and 15. Watching a lot of TV resulted in a huge 40 percent increase in attention problems amongst both boys and girls.
More than two hours is too much.....
“Those who watched more than two hours, and particularly those who watched more than three hours of television per day during childhood had above-average symptoms of attention problems in adolescence," writes co-author of the study, Carl Erik Landhuis, from the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.
He added that the difficulties – including short attention span, poor concentration and being easily distracted - were reported by parents, teachers and the participants themselves.
One explanation of the link between TV and attention problems could be that rapid scene changes in programmes could over-stimulate the brain of a young child as it develops. Real life, by contrast, can seen dreary and unexciting.
“Hence, children who watch a lot of television may become less tolerant of slower-paced and more mundane tasks, such as school work," writes Mr Landhuis.
Watching TV also takes children away from other activities, such as reading, sport and playing games, which improve concentration.
The researchers stressed that the findings could not be explained by early-life attention difficulties, socio-economic factors or intelligence.
"Although teachers and parents have been concerned that television may be shortening the attention span of children, this is the first time that watching television has been linked to attention problems in adolescence,” said co-author of the report, Dr Bob Hancox.
This latest study adds to the growing body of evidence that suggests parents should take steps to limit the amount of TV their children watch.