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Just One Extra Hour of TV Cuts Toddlers' Kindergarten Chances

Update Date: Aug 08, 2013 05:29 PM EDT
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Too much TV takes a toll on children's future, a new study confirms.

Scientists have linked every hourly increase in daily television watching at two-and-a-half-years of age with worse vocabulary and math skills, classroom engagement (which is largely determined by attention skills), victimization by classmates and physical ability in kindergarten.

"This is the first time ever that a stringently controlled associational birth cohort study has looked at and found a relationship between too much toddler screen time and kindergarten risks for poor motor skills and psychosocial difficulties, like victimization by classmates," Professor Linda Pagani of the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine children's hospital said in a news release. "These findings suggest the need for better parental awareness and compliance with existing viewing recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP discourages watching television during infancy and recommends not more than two hours per day beyond age 2. It seems that every extra hour beyond that has a remarkably negative influence," she added.

"Much of the research on school readiness has focused on how kindergarten characteristics predict later success," she said.

"Kindergarten entry characteristics predict long-term psycho-social adjustment and economic characteristics like income and academic attainment. Being innovative, my focus has been to examine what predicts kindergarten entry characteristics. Adding further originality, I also wanted to focus on neglected yet crucial aspects of school readiness such as motor skills, which predict later physical activity and reading skills, likelihood of being "picked-on," which predict social difficulties, and skills at linked to doing what you are supposed to be doing when having been given instructions, which are in turn linked to attention systems that are regulated by the brain's frontal lobe development," she explained.

The latest study involved 991 girls and 1,006 boys in Quebec whose parents reported their television viewing behavior as part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development.

Researchers noted that the latest study only looked at screen time at home and did not account for television watching in childcare settings.

The findings are published in the journal Pediatric Research

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