TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Despite Warnings, Most U.S.Babies Watch Television

Despite Warnings, Most U.S.Babies Watch Television

Julie Steenhuysen (
Tue, 08 May 2007 17:47:39 -0500

By Julie Steenhuysen

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 Monday.

They said the number of young kids watching TV is much greater than

"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 and
Adolescent Medicine.

A second study suggested excessive TV viewing can lead to attention
and learning problems down the road.

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

But 29 percent of parents surveyed by Zimmerman and colleagues believe
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,"
Zimmerman said in a telephone interview.

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

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/videos and adult TV.


In a separate survey of 1,051 parents published in the journal
Pediatrics, 75 percent of children aged 0 to 6 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,"
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.

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.

Johnson said he believes TV may be shortening teens' attention spans.
"Over time, it could really dumb down society," he said.

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.

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