To TV, or Not to TV

The effects of TV

The effects of TV. A new study shows too much might mean rough days in kindergarten
By Linda Knittel

We’ve all done it. Plopping our toddler in front of a video so we can cook a decent dinner, take a work call, or just grab a needed moment of peace. When used sparingly, TV can be entertainment for our kids and a lifesaver for us. But too much screen time can have a lasting impact. In fact, a new study shows as little as one extra hour of TV daily can jeopardize your wee one’s success in the kindergarten classroom—giving them everything from a shorter attention span to a greater likelihood of being bullied.

How a child behaves in kindergarten is actually a powerful predictor of her future success. So what can parents do during the early years to help kids flourish in school? To help answer this question, professor Linda Pagani of the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine children’s hospital looked at just one factor, the connection between screen time and success in kindergarten.

Her team studied the kindergarten performance of 991 girls and 1,006 boys in Quebec, whose parents had been reporting their television viewing behavior over time, as part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. Out of that data emerged a pattern showing that at 29 months of age, even one hour a day beyond the recommended limit of TV watching reduced language and math skills, attention spans and physical prowess, and even increased a child’s chances of being victimized by classmates once they hit grade K.

Though it all sounds pretty dramatic, the solution is pretty simple. By keeping a preschooler’s TV time below the recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parents may dramatically improve their children’s experience in kindergarten. That means no television during infancy and no more than two hours per day beyond age 2. You’ll be setting your kiddo up for greater success at school, and you don’t even have to give up those precious moments of peace that Sesame Street provides.


Linda S. Pagani, Caroline Fitzpatrick, Tracie A. Barnett. Early childhood television viewing and kindergarten entry readiness. Pediatric Research, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/pr.2013.105

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