Young children who watch television more than two hours a day show decreased skills in math and executive functioning—the collective term for cognitive abilities related to attention, focus, and self-control—with low- income children faring the worst compared with those from higher-income families who viewed the same amount of TV, concludes a new study.
It was published online last month by.
The link between television viewing and a child’s math and executive-functioning skills was highest for children in families living on $21,200 or less a year, the poverty line at the time of the study. The effects on middle-income children—pegged at an average of $74,200 a year for a family of four—were smaller, but statistically significant. No effect on school readiness was seen on children in families making $127,200 or more a year.
The findings are based on a group of 5-year-olds in Massachusetts who were recruited for a kindergarten intervention in fall 2008 and 2009.
This study captures only the hours spent passively viewing television—it does not measure the hours spent listening to television in the background, or time that children spent using electronic games or on interactive screen-based technologies. The study also does not capture the content of the television that children were watching.
A version of this article appeared in the March 08, 2017 edition of Education Week as Television Time