July 4th, 2005

TV is Bad for Children's Education, Studies Say

By Andrew Stern

The more time children spend watching television the poorer they perform academically, according to three studies published on Monday.

Excessive television viewing has been blamed for increasing rates of childhood obesity and for aggressive behavior, while its impact on schooling have been inconclusive, researchers said.

But studies published on the topic in this month’s Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine concluded television viewing tended to have an adverse effect on academic pursuits.

For instance, children in third grade (approximately 8 years old) who had televisions in their bedrooms—and therefore watched more TV—scored lower on standardized tests than those who did not have sets in their rooms.

In contrast, the study found having a home computer with access to the Internet resulted in comparatively higher test scores.

"Consistently, those with a bedroom television but no home computer access had, on average, the lowest scores and those with home computer access but no bedroom television had the highest scores," wrote study author Dina Borzekowski of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

American homes with children have an average of nearly three televisions each, the report said, and children with televisions in their bedrooms averaged nearly 13 hours of viewing a week compared to nearly 11 hours by children who did not have their own sets.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has urged parents to limit children’s television viewing to no more than one to two hours per day—and to try to keep younger children away from TV altogether.


In two other studies published in the same journal, children who regularly watched television before the age of 3 ended up with lower test scores later on, and children and adolescents who watched more television were less likely to go on to finish high school or earn a college degree.

University of Washington researchers reported that 59 percent of U.S. children younger than age 2 watch an average of 1.3 hours of television per day, though there is no programing of proven educational value for children that young.

Their analysis of 1,800 children over a decade showed television watching was linked to poorer cognitive development among children younger than 3 and between the ages of 6 and 7.

TV watching appeared to help 3- to 5-year-olds with basic reading recognition and short-term memory, but not reading comprehension or mathematics, so the net effect of television watching is "limited in its beneficial impact," wrote study author Frederick Zimmerman.

Similarly, Robert Hancox of the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, found that children and adolescents who watched more television had less educational attainment regardless of their intelligence, socioeconomic status or childhood behavioral problems.

But condemning television as a vast wasteland—government regulator Newton Minow’s oft-quoted diatribe against the medium—would be unfair as programing is not "monolithic," an editorial accompanying the studies said.

"Parents should be encouraged to incorporate well-produced, age-appropriate educational TV into their children’s lives. Such programing represents a valuable tool for stimulating children’s cognitive development," wrote Ariel Chernin and Deborah Linebarger of the University of Pennsylvania.


  1. Posted by Marnie on July 5th, 2005

    It’s time for our elected officials and community leaders to discourage people from watching television.  Why won’t they do this?  Are they afraid of the National Association of Broadcasters?

  2. Posted by Tom Young on July 5th, 2005

    Having raised four kids and a seven year old granddaughter, I know about kids and TV ...  fortunately my kids were raised on Maui, and had better things to do, all year round, than watch TV. Still yet, kids seem to always find a way to watch a lot of TV. I agree with this article 100%. I have seen over the years, how the scourge of commercialism has more and more focused on targeting kids as a market. In my opinion, TV has, and is used as a vehicle to subliminally mold opinion and general perception of reality.I am not against TV per se, I believe that TV can be a tremendous tool for education, if properly utilized. I would support any attempt to rectify this disservice to our youth.

  3. Posted by M on July 6th, 2005

    It is astonishing to me that so many studies are needed to conclude something that seems so obvious. 

    The problem is not so much when you are fortunate enough to raise your kids on Maui - it’s in areas where there really doesn’t seem to be anything better to do, at least not anything that can compete with the allure of television.  We can - and should - work to lessen viewing, but we need to provide enticing alternatives to make it stick.

  4. Posted by Shawn Paul on July 10th, 2005

    Unlike some, I AM against television per se, in the sense that the medium is inherently detrimental to the developing mind. We would do well to recall that tv is, and has been since its inception, a vehicle for selling products to the population at large. It’s purported benefits as an educational tool, as yet entirely untentured, are far outweighed by the seemingly necessary disconnect from reality that it continues to foster among our children. Let us speak, question and interact rather than sit and stare at a box of flashing lights.

  5. Posted by Cvirtue on July 15th, 2005

    This article doesn’t say if the study compensated for different income levels—just saying that kids with computers did better could be reflecting the better educational situation for families with more money to buy computers, not really reflecting the computer vs. TV issue.

  6. Posted by AKM on July 15th, 2005

    It’s nice to have scientific confirmation of this. I have a friend who thinks that the remarkable increase in reported ADD (ADHD) cases is in part attributable to TV teaching kids to have short attention span. This is not only due to the action sequences and frequent commercials—according to him, the change of “camera angle” or “cuts” also teaches the brain to expect changes ... leading to shorter attention span, reading problems, and a general expectation that teachers will be “entertaining”.

  7. Posted by Peter-MN on July 18th, 2005

    For those looking to ‘them’ and ‘they’ to provide solutions and alternatives to TVI say. It is your job as a parent to interact with your children often enough and in interesting ways so they choose YOU over TV. They’re your children, raise them!

  8. Posted by Tim on July 18th, 2005

    We have not had TV in our house for 3 years now.  My younger daughter (7) reads at a 6th grade level and read early.  I don’t give no tv all the credit but it certainly contributed to a good environment.  As far as good alternatives are concerned, my youngest (who has never had it in the house) can entertain himself with two sticks i f he has to.  Children need to learn how to be bored and that boredom is good!!!  It leads to creating stuff to do!  While I appreciate the fact that their are well-intentioned creators of educational programming, nothing beats the subtle shades of meaning and experience that come about through regular interaction with REALITY! 

  9. Posted by a young adult who watches tv on August 18th, 2005

    I dont belive that television is bad nor good but i do believe that no child should be deprived of a child hood because of parents that can have children but cant make time on a weekend or any day to play or pay attention to thier young ones its your choice to raise your children the way you want but make it fun take it from some one who is still a child all fun is good fun as long as we are happy and it doesnt take much to make a child happy just being there for us makes our day a good day.

  10. Posted by Ken on August 19th, 2005

    The worst of TV are the commercials. Kids are programmed to think that succes in life is possessing some useless product or latest fad or fashion. Which have little to do with the true values in life.

  11. Posted by angela on August 22nd, 2005

    I think that kids should not be allowed to watch any tv without any supervision.  Kids that are young are saying the F*** word and treat everyone with direspect and they get this all from TV.  I really think that someone somewhere sould really do something to help this kids.  I am 17 years old and do not cuss as bad as some of the kids on my bus do, the reason is because my parents didn’t let me watch that bad stuff.  I am deeply appreciattive of that.  Thank you Mom and Dad.  I think that parents everywhere sould waych and not let their kids watch so much.  I as think that the people we look up too should wake up and set and example to the furture genartions.

  12. Posted by stacy on September 27th, 2005

    tv is real bad for kids they should not watch it because they learn what the television says and the learn the curse words first and think the same way as the televisin

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