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Too much TV bad for kids’ behavior, says Dutch study

Young children are more likely to show behavioral problems if they watch television often and for long periods

Children who watch excessive amounts of television between the ages of two and three, namely repeatedly for more than 1 hour per day, are more likely to develop behavioral problems than children who watch a moderate amount of television or no television at all. This manifests itself in aggression, hyperactive behavior, concentration problems and disobedience. Particularly if children already show behavioral problems when they start watching excessive amounts of television, the likelihood of the behavioral problems persisting will increase. Researchers from Erasmus MC have published their results in the scientific journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Research carried out by Erasmus MC as part of the Generation R population study has shown that children aged three are more likely to have behavioral problems if they have watched excessive amounts of television between the ages of 2 and 3. This particularly applies to a fixed pattern of continuously high exposure between these ages. The content or duration of the television viewing behavior measured only at the age of 2 has no effect on the extent to which toddlers show behavioral problems while persistent and excessive viewing behavior do have an effect.

The behavioral problems manifest themselves in disobedience, hyperactivity, concentration problems and aggression. These problems are of a more persistent nature on continued high exposure to television.

Researcher Marina Verlinden of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry department of Erasmus MC-Sophia Children’s Hospital conducted the research. Verlinden: “We were already aware of the fact that excessive exposure to television causes behavioral problems in children of school age but this had not yet been extensively studied for pre-school children. We have now shown that persistent high exposure to television at a young age leads to the development of behavioral problems. But more important still, we have shown for the first time that watching excessive amounts of television can result in the persistence of existing behavioral problems. Parents must therefore prevent their pre-school children from watching excessive amounts of television.”The research is part of the large-scale population study Generation R.

This population study monitors the growth, development and health of 10,000 children in Rotterdam from fetal life to young adulthood. Generation R is carried out by Erasmus MC, the Erasmus University Rotterdam and the Public Health Services Rotterdam Rijnmond (GGD).