Watching too much TV leads to poor academic performance

  • 18 Feb - 24 Feb, 2023
  • Mag The Weekly

According to new research, children who watch too much television or have a television set in their bedroom may struggle in school and have a lower chance of graduating from college.

The new study shows that children's television viewing habits can have a negative impact on their academic achievement later in life in a variety of ways. These are some examples:

• Having a television in the bedroom was linked to lower third-grade scores on standardised math, language, and reading tests.

• Children aged 5 to 11 who watched the most television were less likely to graduate from college.

• Each hour of daily television viewing before the age of three was associated with lower developmental scores between the ages of six and seven.

Researchers say the impact of the findings could be substantial, as more than 70% of U.S. children have a TV in their bedroom. Children who watch too much television are at a higher risk of obesity and violent behaviour. According to researchers, the long-term effects of television on academic achievement are less clear.

TV In A Child's Bedroom Affects Test Scores

The first study, published in the July issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, looked at the relationship between children's media use (television and computers) and academic achievement in approximately 350 third-graders at six public elementary schools in northern California in 2000.

More than 70% of the children reported having a television in their bedroom, and these children performed seven to nine points worse on standardised math, reading, and language arts tests than those who did not have a television in their bedroom. Overall, children with a bedroom television watched nearly 13 hours of television per week, compared to less than 11 hours per week for those without a bedroom television. The study also revealed that children who had access to home computers performed better on these tests than those who did not.

"While this study does not prove that putting a television in your child's bedroom will lower his or her test scores, it does add to the growing evidence that it is not a good idea," says researcher Thomas Robinson, MD, associate professor of paediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, in a news release.

"Having a television in a child's bedroom has become the norm," Robinson says. "It keeps kids entertained and out of trouble, according to parents. However, by agreeing to this arrangement, parents relinquish control over how much and what their children watch."

TV Cuts Children's College Chances

In the second study, researchers in New Zealand tracked the television viewing habits of 1,000 children for about 15 years before collecting data on their educational attainment at the age of 26. The study found that the average number of hours spent watching television as a child was a strong predictor of their level of achievement later in life. Children who watched less television between the ages of 5 and 11 were more likely to graduate from college than those who watched the most television. Furthermore, children who watched more television as teenagers were more likely to drop out of school without a diploma or other credentials (the lowest level of academic achievement). Researchers found these effects of television viewing on educational achievement remained significant, regardless of child's intelligence, family socioeconomic status, and childhood behavioral problems.

Too Much TV Too Soon Harms Development

The third study looked at the effects of watching TV at a young age on children's cognitive development later in life. Researchers compared standardised test scores in math, reading recognition, and reading comprehension in a group of nearly 1,800 6- and 7-year-olds to their TV viewing habits prior to age 3 and between the ages of 3 and 5.

The children watched an average of 2.2 hours of television per day before the age of three, and an average of 3.3 hours between the ages of three and five, according to the study. Researchers discovered that each hour of daily TV viewing before the age of three was consistently associated with lower scores on all three developmental tests at the ages of six and seven. However, television viewing at ages 3 to 5 years appeared to have a slightly beneficial effect on the children's scores on reading recognition and short-term memory at age 6 and 7. Researchers say many educational television programs are targeted at 3- to 5-year-olds and may explain this positive effect. But they say reading recognition and short-term memory were the most basic of the cognitive development skills tested in the study, which would mean that this potential beneficial effect is very limited.