Childhood TV Viewing Linked to Teenage Attention Problems

Tuesday 4 September 2007

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Children who watch a lot of television are more likely to have attention problems when they are teenagers, according to a new study by University of Otago researchers.

The study is the first in the world to investigate a possible long-term link between television viewing in childhood and attention problems in adolescence.

The research comes out of the University's long-running Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study and appears in the latest issue of the US journal Pediatrics.

The study has followed more than 1000 children born in Dunedin in 1972-1973. The time they spent watching television was recorded every two years between the ages of five and 11.

Otago researcher and paper co-author Erik Landhuis says that those who watched the most television had more difficulty paying attention when they were teenagers. The attention problems were reported by their parents, teachers and the participants themselves.

Co-author and Deputy Director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit (DMHDRU) Dr Bob Hancox says the findings suggest that childhood television viewing may contribute to the development of attention problems.

The researchers found that those who watched more than two hours – and particularly those who watched more that three hours – of television per day during childhood had above-average symptoms of attention problems in adolescence.

Symptoms included short attention span, poor concentration and being easily distracted.

These findings could not be explained by early-life attention difficulties, socio-economic factors or intelligence.

Even after all of these factors were taken into account, watching more television was associated with teenage attention problems, Dr Hancox says.

"Although teachers and parents have been concerned that television may be shortening the attention span of children, this is the first time that watching television has been linked to attention problems in adolescence.

"This latest study adds to the growing body of evidence that suggests parents should take steps to limit the amount of TV their children watch."

Previous studies by the DMHDRU have linked children's excessive TV viewing to childhood obesity, a range of health problems in young adulthood, as well as lower educational achievement.

"These findings support the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics to limit children's television to a maximum of two hours per day," Dr Hancox says.

Quelle: Pressemeldung der Universität Otago vom 2007-09-04.

The DMHDRU is supported by the Health Research Council of New Zealand. For more information contact:

Dr Bob Hancox
Deputy Director
Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit
University of Otago
Tel 64 3 479 8512
Simon Ancell
Communications Adviser
University of Otago
Tel 64 3 479 5016

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