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Around Our Town...To Your Health

More on Television

01/01/2006 - Last month I wrote about the benefits (correction -lack of benefits) of having a television in the bedroom. At the time I finished the article I found another article that also provided some interesting information that I wished I could have squeezed in. So, if you don't mind I decided to give that information this month.

In the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, July 2005, an article entitled "Children's Television Viewing and Cognitive Outcomes-A Longitudinal Analysis" provided some interesting data and comments. In the study it found that the average amount of television time for children under the age of 3 was 2.2. hours a day, 3.3 hours a day for children 3-5 yrs., and 3.5 hours a day for 6 yr. olds. Some of the findings revealed "Television viewing before age 3 years was associated with deleterious effects on both reading recognition and reading comprehension, and with each additional hour per day leading to a reduction in scores of 31% in recognition and 58% in comprehension". (Yikes!). Early television viewing was associated with an adverse effect on memory, with each hour per day viewed associated with a 10% decrease in the score. In families with lower than median income, each hour per day of television viewing before age 3 years was associated with a 45% decrease in math score. (Double Yikes!).

The authors commented, "This analysis has shown a consistent pattern of negative associations between television viewing before age 3 years and adverse cognitive (Webster definition: process of knowing in the broadest sense including perception, memory and judgment) outcomes at ages 67 years." The authors proposed 3 mechanisms for the observed effect of television watching:

1) Children younger than 3 years who spend more time watching television spend less time in other activities, such as imaginative free play, interactions with adults, and so forth, that would be beneficial to their cognitive development.

2) The content of the television they watch is deleterious to their cognitive development.

3) It may be medium itself is deleterious, whether because of the aspects of the production (example, the pacing and rapid scene changes) or the simple act of looking in a single direction at a single stimulus for long time.

"This analysis compliments the earlier work by suggesting that viewing a heavy television diet entails modest, but statistically significant, consequences for subsequent development in several key cognitive domains."(Important)

You can assume by now I am not a big fan of the boob tube. For a child's brain and even an adult's to stay healthy and develop it needs to continue to build connections in the brain. Television as has been researched is not the answer. Maybe this year's goal could be a lot less television for everybody in the family and maybe more brain development activities such as reading and playing. Until next time.

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