More Than Two Hours of Television Doubles Risk of Attention Problems

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Spending too much time watching television or playing video games can double the risk of attention problems in children and young adults, according to new research conducted at the Iowa State University.

Read: Limiting TV Time Makes Kids More Active

Graduate student Edward Swing and colleagues assessed more than 1300 school children in the third, fourth, and fifth grades and 210 college students. During the evaluation, he compared participants who watched TV or played video games less than two hours a day to those who watched more through self reports as well as reports from parents and teachers.

Teachers reported if children had problems staying on task, paying attention, if they interrupted other children's work, or showed problems in other areas that reflected trouble with attention.

The elementary age students spent an average of 4.26 hours a day watching television or playing video games, while the older students spent 4.82 hours daily.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children aged 2 and older restrict daily television watching to less than two hours a day. The group does not recommend any television programming for children under the age of two.

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Read: Children Don't Benefit Watching TV Before Age 2

"Those who exceeded the AAP recommendation were about 1.6 times to 2.2 times more likely to have greater than average attention problems," said Swing. Elementary school children who play video games more than two hours a day were 67 percent more likely to have greater-than-average attention problems.

Read: Television Ads Promote Foods that Lead to Chronic Illness

"ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder] is 10 times more common today than it was 20 years ago," says Dr. Dimitri Christakis, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle. He was not involved in the study, but has researched the impact of excessive media on attention disorders.

"Although it is clear that ADHD has a genetic basis, given that our genes have not changed appreciably in that timeframe, it is likely that there are environmental factors that are contributing to this rise,” he said.

The study is published in the July issue of Pediatrics.

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