Can Watching Lots of TV Make Kids Smarter?
More TV = Smarter Kids. What?! That's what a new study claims
No, you didn’t accidentally click on The Onion! There really is a new study, from the University of London no less, that says children who watch more television do better in school than kids whose parents limit screen time.
According to the study, researchers found that children who watched TV for three or more hours a day were, on average, three months ahead in reading and writing skills in school compared to peers whose daily TV time was limited to an hour or less. The study used test results from 11,000 British 7-year-olds tracked since birth as part of a long-term project called the Millennium Cohort Study.
As Dr. Alice Sullivan, study lead author and senior academic at the university’s Institute of Education, explains to the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, the educational value of children’s television may have been “underestimated,” adding, “It may also help expose some children to a broader vocabulary than they get at home.”
If this bit of news isn’t enough to make you scratch your head, the study also found that common rules imposed by parents hoping to boost their children’s academic ability, such as insisting on regular meals or bedtimes, didn’t make much of a difference in helping kids get ahead. On the flip side, researchers noted that parents’ education levels and socioeconomic status played the largest role in predicting which kids would pull ahead academically in school.
What’s a parent to do this with this information? The American Academy of Pediatrics has long held that young kids should watch no more than one to two hours of television each day, and children under the age of two should avoid “screen time” altogether.
This advice isn’t changing, and the AAP has plenty of research to back up its recommendation, including studies linking excessive TV watching to everything from language delays to violent behavior.
Still, isn’t it nice that—for once—there is a well-researched, thorough study that actually makes you feel less guilty about the choices and compromises you sometimes have to make as a parent?
Melina Bates, a mom of three from the Washington, D.C. area, thinks so. “My toddler watches a half-hour show in the morning when I am rushing around getting ready for work, and everyone is doing the same,” she explains. “It keeps her occupied and in one place. I have felt very guilty about this because of the ‘no TV under 2′ rule, but it’s what works for us. After reading this [study], I have a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, I am not screwing her up for life!”
On behalf of other guilt-ridden parents everywhere, Bates also has a special request for researchers. “Can we get ‘the experts’ to give us more studies like this, please?”
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