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Some Children's TV Shows are Bad for Their Brains

9/12/2011

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limited television for children – and discourages it altogether for children under age 2. A new study in the October, 2011, issue of the journal, Pediatrics, finds that some TV shows may be worse than others.

The study, “The Immediate Impact of Different Types of Television on Young Children’s Executive Function,” published online Sept. 12, tested 4-year-old children’s attention, problem solving, self regulation and other executive function abilities after they watched one of two cartoons for nine minutes. A control group of children received crayons and markers for free drawing for the same time period. The children who watched a fast-paced cartoon featuring an animated kitchen sponge did significantly worse on tests than the drawing group. There was no difference between the drawing group and children who watched a slower-paced, realistic Public Broadcasting Service cartoon about a typical preschool boy.

Study authors stated they cannot tell which features of the TV show created the effects, though they speculate the combination of fantastical events and the fast pacing are responsible. They conclude that parents should be aware that watching similar television shows may immediately impair young children’s executive function. In a commentary, “The Effects of Fast-Paced Cartoons,” pediatrician and researcher Dimitri Christakis, MD, FAAP, discusses the study and the implications that media exposure has for children’s health.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.