The notion that an excess of television in the lives of children leads to problems is not a new one. It's important, however, to understand what specific ill effects come into play. One aspect that has come in for much study is the medium's potential to undermine one of the most critical, formative elements in a child's life: Education.
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TV for Toddlers
Psychologist John Grohol, writing on the PsychCentral website, points out that most child development experts recommend that kids watch absolutely no television before the age of 2 or 3. A study conducted at the University of Washington found that kids watching the most TV before age 3 performed poorest on reading and math tests at the ages of 6 and 7. This suggests that the negative influence of TV begins long before a child starts formal schooling.
Shorter Attention Span
Researchers at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons determined that 14-year-olds who watched three or more hours of television a day were at risk for poor attention span and the accompanying learning difficulties. The nature of most television programming, with a rapid succession of different ideas and images in shows and commercials, tends to break down the ability to focus for extended periods of time.
A variety of academic studies have demonstrated that childhood hours spent in front of the television can be linked to aggressive behavior and poor attitude in school, according to an article in the London-based magazine New Scientist. One 15-year study by the University of Michigan, in fact, found that the link between childhood TV-violence viewing and aggressive behavior becomes deeply rooted enough to persist into adulthood.
Creative Thinking and Executive Function
A proposed mechanism of the way television harms educational achievement revolves around the loss of "creative play." According to the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, this type of play, facilitated by a skilled teacher, helps build executive function, which in turn helps children learn self-discipline and to control impulses. Moreover, this type of play helps children learn to work in groups, share and resolve conflicts -- all of which factor into a child's academic success