Studies have shown repeatedly that too much TV for a child is associated with obesity. After all, if a child is plonked down in front of a TV, they really are not going out there exercising. Obesity, of course, leads to all manner of further conditions which are best avoided. However, if a new study is anything to go by, then watching too much TV may reduce your chances of your child being prepared for kindergarten.
New York University published this study in the Journal of Development and Behavioral Pediatrics.
This study discovered that watching the television for more than a few hours a day lowered the readiness that a child had for school. This is something which seemed to be more prevalent among those families with lower incomes, although high income families saw some effect too.
The study looked at 807 children from a variety of different backgrounds. This included cultural backgrounds and financial backgrounds. The study asked how much TV each child watched per day. It did not analyze the following:
- The types of TV that a child watched. To them, it did not matter whether the show was educational or not.
- Video games
- Tablet computer use
- Smartphone use
The children were then tested for school-readiness skills. There were basic tests which covered math, letters, words, and cognitive understanding of the world around them. It also analyzed memory and general cognitive flexibility.
The study found that those children who watched more than two hours of TV per day saw an adverse reaction. There more TV a child watched, the less-likely they were to develop the skills required to tackle school.
One of the more intriguing things about the study is that the poorer families (families with incomes less than $21,200 per year for a family of four), saw a bigger drop in school readiness than those families with a larger income. They have no idea why that is.
Conversely, families which had incomes of over $127,000 per year saw no decrease in school readiness no matter how many hours per day the child watched the TV. The researchers believe that there are two reasons for this:
- These children were exposed to more educational content. As mentioned previously, they study did not judge the type of content that a child was consuming. We can safely assume that most children are watching quality educational content, but we can’t guarantee that. However, do bear in mind that this means that the lower income families are getting their children to watch educational content too. It could really be down to the quality of the content that is being consumed.
- It is more likely that the higher income families have time to spend with their children. The children were not watching the television on their own. Instead, they could interact with the parent and ask any questions that they may have had about what was on the screen.
Perhaps one of the more interesting things about this study is that literacy development never really decreased when a child was exposed to the television for longer periods of time. The thing that decreased was their math skills. It is likely this is down to the fact that educational programming on television focuses more on the literacy than the math side of things. There is a chance that we could actually counter the negative ‘readiness’ consequences of watching TV for long periods of time if children’s educational shows started to focus more on math, or at least try to get an equal balance between the two. It is unlikely that this is something which is going to happen in the near future, however.
What Does This Mean for Parents?
Hopefully, not a lot! Parents should know by now that children watching TV for longer periods of time is not really a thing that they should be doing. There are plenty of other ways in which they can be educated. Here are a few tips that you can use:
- Your child should be limited to a maximum of one-hour of TV content per day. While the study did not look at smartphone and tablet use, it is probably safe to say that if the child is viewing videos on one of these devices, it counts as watching the television.
- If your child must watch television, and we know that it is a great way for children to relax or to give you a break from playing with them, then you need to ensure that the content is educational. Thankfully, there are a lot of TV stations which have educational content playing on them so this should not be that much of an issue. We do know that many parents will get irritated by the fact that the same shows play repeatedly, and by that we mean exactly the same show. However, children love it, so it is not much of an issue.
- If you can, while your child is watching television, you can sit with them. If they have any questions, then you will be ready to answer them!
Instead of watching TV, you should try and do some more educational activities with your child. We are not going to focus too much on what they are on this page. However, try to go down the route of playing a few simple board games with them. Even giving your child something as simple as a coloring book or toddler books will work absolute wonders for helping them to develop. Our suggestion is that you allocate a certain amount of time each day where you and your child are able to play ‘educationally’ with one another. If you don’t know where to get them, .
Remember, your child developing these skills early on in life will serve them well for many, many years to come. Studies have shown that children who receive a head start on their education are far more likely to succeed in their life. This is, obviously, what you want for your child.