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Fast-Paced TV Impairs Executive Function in Prechoolers

Significantly worse performance on executive function tasks immediately after fast-paced TV

MONDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Watching fast-paced television shows is associated with immediate impairment in the executive function of children aged 4 years, according to a study published online Sept. 12 in Pediatrics.

Angeline S. Lillard, Ph.D., and Jennifer Peterson, from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, examined whether a fast-paced television show immediately influences preschool-aged children's executive function, including self-regulation and working memory. A total of 60 children aged 4 years were assigned to watch either a fast-paced television cartoon or an educational cartoon or draw for nine minutes. Executive function was then tapped by giving them four tasks, including the classic delay-of-gratification and Tower of Hanoi tasks. The parents filled in surveys pertaining to television viewing and child's attention.

The investigators found that the performance in the executive function tasks was significantly worse in the children who watched fast-paced television than in the children in the other two groups, after controlling for child attention, age, and television exposure.

"Just nine minutes of viewing a fast-paced television cartoon had immediate negative effects on 4-year-old's executive function. Parents should be aware that fast-paced television shows could at least temporarily impair young children's executive function," the authors write.

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