Neutral effects of TV viewing in infants

 The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television viewing for children under age 2, but most babies in the US watch between 1 to 2 hours of TV a day.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School in Boston studied whether it matters.

First, the details.

  • The effects of TV watching habits of 872 children were monitored for their first 3 years.
  • Mothers completed questionnaires about their child’s TV viewing habits when they were 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years old.
    • The content of what the children watched on TV was not included.
  • The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test III (PPVT-III) and Wide-Range Assessment of Visual Motor Abilities (WRAVMA) scores were used to assess language and visual motor skills.
    • PPVT-III measures English vocabulary and verbal ability.
    • WRAVMA evaluates visual-motor skills.

And, the results.

  • Television viewing in infancy (birth to 2 years) averaged 1.2 hours per day.
  • Increased TV viewing was associated with poorer scores on these tests.
  • But those effects disappeared after controlling for factors known to affect babies’ mental development (mother’s age, education, household income, and marital status).

The bottom line?
The results suggest the effects of TV viewing at an early age on children’s development are neutral.

“TV exposure in infants has been associated with increased risk of obesity, attention problems, and decreased sleep quality,” says Dr. Michael Rich. “Parents need to understand that infants and toddlers do not learn or benefit in any way from viewing TV at an early age.”

3/10/09 20:26 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.