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Children's Television Viewing Linked to Short Attention Later

Study tracked cohort's TV habits and attention abilities through childhood and adolescence

TUESDAY, Sept. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Television viewing during childhood is associated with attention difficulties during adolescence, according to the results of a longitudinal study that followed a cohort from age 5 into their teenage years. The research is published in the September issue of Pediatrics.

Carl Erik Landhuis, of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, and colleagues analyzed data from a group of 1,037 New Zealand children born in 1972 and 1973. Researchers obtained the children's average weekday television viewing hours every two years from ages 5 to 15, and also rated their attention ability at ages 3, 5, 13 and 15.

For each daily hour of television viewing, the odds ratio for high attention problems in adolescence was 1.44, after adjustment for gender, early attention problems and cognitive ability, and socioeconomic status. The association was independent of adolescent television habits, suggesting that the consequences of childhood television viewing are long-lasting.

"Because there is considerable brain plasticity during the first few years after birth, the rapid image and scene changes commonly found in television may overstimulate the child and adversely affect brain development," the authors suggest. "Another explanation is that life as portrayed on television with its fast-paced editing and attention-grabbing techniques makes reality seem boring by comparison. Hence, children who watch a lot of television may become less tolerant of slower-paced and more mundane tasks, such as school work."

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