After a long day at work or school, there’s something about watching TV that can lull us into a relaxed, nearly catatonic state. But it’s exactly those fast-paced, flickering images that can harm kids’ ability to relax and concentrate, a study suggests.
Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle found that the more children watch television between the ages of one and three, the more likely they are to develop attention problems by age seven.
The study’s authors suggest that the rapid-fire production of many television programs can affect how children’s brains develop. The more very young children watch images flash by, the more their brains get used to it. But when kids get older and need to concentrate for longer periods of time on more involved tasks like reading, the brain’s fast-paced conditioning can cause problems.
The study does not necessarily mean that watching television is always bad, or that TV is the sole culprit concerning attention deficit problems in kids. Other factors such as parental neglect certainly play a role. But what makes the study so convincing is that it accounted for many possible factors and involved a large test group of over thirteen hundred children. Even when taking into consideration a wide range of other factors, the researchers found a strong correlation between children watching TV and having trouble concentrating later in life.
So while there’s certainly more to learn about how young minds develop, the study is one more suggestion that it’s a good bet to turn off the TV and get your kids off the couch.