From mp3 players to cable TV to wireless Internet connections, media is everywhere. According to recent studies, U.S. children spend up to 6 hours a day using screen-based media such as TV, computers, and video games. Some people argue that all this screen time could be distracting kids from activities like reading and completing homework, so researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, and Stanford University in Stanford, California, studied possible links between media use and academic achievement and standardized test scores in elementary-school students.
During the 1999-2000 school year, researchers surveyed third-grade students in six California elementary schools and their parents about media use. Students and parents noted how many TVs, computers, VCRs, and video game players were in the home and whether there was a TV in the child's bedroom. Parents and students noted how much time the child spent watching TV, using the computer, playing video games, reading, and doing homework during the school week and on weekends. In addition, the schools provided information about each student's grades and scores on academic achievement tests.
On average, students had 3.3 televisions in the home, and almost all homes had at least one VCR. Nine out of 10 students said they had a video game player, and almost three out of four students had access to a computer at home. In addition, 71% of students said they had a TV in their bedroom.
In general, children who had TVs in their bedrooms watched 12.8 hours of TV per week, compared to the 10.7 hours per week that kids without TVs in their bedrooms watched. Students who had TVs in their bedrooms scored significantly lower on standardized tests, compared to kids without bedroom TV sets. In contrast, children with access to a computer at home scored higher on standardized tests than children who didn't have computers at home. Children who had TVs in their bedrooms and no access to computers at home had the lowest scores on standardized tests, and kids who had home computers but no TV in their bedrooms had the highest scores.
What This Means to You: In this study, having a TV in a child's bedroom was associated with lower standardized test scores. Too much TV time has also been linked to obesity and aggression, so encourage your child to turn off the television set and get involved in sports, games, or outdoor activities. Instead of placing a television in your child's room, position the TV in a common area, such as a family room, so you can monitor the content and amount of TV your child is watching. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under 2 shouldn't watch TV at all, and after that age, kids shouldn't watch more than an hour or 2 a day.
Source: Dina L.G. Borzekowski, EdD; Thomas N. Robinson, MD, MPH; Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, July 2005
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: July 2005