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TV Hurts Kids Of All Ages, Studies Say

Many experts claim that too much television isn't good for kids — they should read books or play outside instead.

Now two new studies in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine say that many very young children are watching TV regularly and teens who watch too much TV are more likely to be poor students.

The first study finds that 40 percent of infants are regular TV watchers by the time they are 3 months old. By the time they are 2 years old, 90 percent of children regularly watch TV. In most cases, it doesn't seem to be a matter of parents using the TV as a surrogate babysitter, but rather parents truly believe that shows aimed at tots will somehow expand their minds, language skills and cognitive abilities, the study found.

"It's easy to assume that many parents are so occupied by chores, or attention they need to pay to their other kids, that they turn the TV into a second babysitter," The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay said. "But that's not what the numbers show."

Yet studies have never proved that television shows help a child learn.

"There's no hard evidence one way or the other for kids so young, but the American Academy of Pediatrics has made its expert opinion clear," Dr. Senay said. "It urges parents to discourage TV viewing for children younger than 2. The Academy says it's much better for a child's development to talk to the child, or to play sing and read together. It also says even when they're older, kids should not have televisions in their bedrooms."

The second study found that 14-year-olds who watch more than three hours of TV a day are far more likely to have a negative attitude toward school, skip homework and to have trouble paying attention than kids who watch one hour or less a day. In turn, kids in that group are less likely to go to college.

"That study surveyed more than 600 families with grown children ... and the association with bad outcomes appeared to be profound," Dr. Senay said. "However, the study found that many kids who drastically cut their television viewing had sharp turnarounds for the better."

But Dr. Senay said that the damage can be undone. If the children who watch more than three hours of television drastically cut their viewing time, they greatly improve their chances of going to college.

"That's a good indication that parents who clamp down on the TV viewing — or maybe even better — teenagers who realize they're watching too much and cut back the hours on their own, can really improve academic performance," Dr. Senay said. "And given the vast differences in the job market between college graduates and people who didn't get past high school, the lead researcher says the decision to cut back before it's too late can ultimately have a profound effect on a young person's life."

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