TV Viewing Hampers Children’s Creativity, Time Spent with Family says New Study

Thu Feb 9, 2006 - 12:15 pm EST

By Terry Vanderheyden

AUSTIN, Texas, February 9, 2006 ( – Children who spend more time watching television spend less time interacting with their family and playing creatively, according to research from The University of Texas at Austin and Harvard Children’s Hospital appearing in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics.

By studying children’s activities over 24-hour periods, Dr. Elizabeth Vandewater and her colleagues provide evidence for the first time that supports the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) television viewing recommendations. AAP recommends that children under the age of two should not watch television and children older than two should watch no more than two hours of television daily.

“When AAP made these recommendations, we actually knew nothing about how much time infants and toddlers were spending in front of the screen,” said Vandewater, lead author and associate professor of human ecology at The University of Texas at Austin. “Now we know that time spent watching television is negatively related to time spent with parents.”

While television time impinged on familial interactions for all age groups, Vandewater found this to be strongest in older children, ages nine to 12, because they spent less time with their parents overall. “Though AAP is specifically concerned about younger kids, I would urge parents to consider how television is impinging on their time with older kids as well,” Vandewater said.

Vandewater and her colleagues compared television use with time spent on homework, reading, creative play (such as arts and crafts), active play (such as soccer) and interaction with parents and siblings. Increased time watching television was associated with decreased time interacting with parents and siblings and playing creatively.

The researchers also found that older children who spent more time watching television spent less time on homework. Television did not interfere with reading or playing outdoors, though it is a commonly held belief that it interferes with these activities.

See an abstract of the research as it appears in Pediatrics:

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