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EDUCATION REPORT - Television and Attention Problems - 2004-04-14

Broadcast: April 15, 2004

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.

A new study suggests that very young children who watch a lot of television may have attention problems later in school.

Children with attention problems cannot sit still or control their actions. They talk too much, lose things, forget easily and are not able to finish tasks.

People with attention problems may suffer a condition known as Attention Deficit Disorder, or A.D.D. Experts say the cause of A.D.D involves chemicals in the brain. Teachers say many children in the United States are showing signs of the disorder. Some education researchers have been saying for years that watching television at a very young age could change the normal development of the brain. For example, they say that children who watch a lot of television are not able to sit and read for an extended period of time.

The new study tested the idea that television watching by very young children is linked to attention problems by the age of seven. It involved more than one-thousand-three-hundred children. There were two groups of children, ages one and three. Researchers at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, Washington reported the results in the publication Pediatrics. They asked the parents how often the children watched television. The parents also described their children’s actions at the age of seven using a method that can tell if someone suffers attention deficit disorders.

The children who watched a lot of television at an early age were most likely to have attention problems. Every hour of watching television increased the chances of having attention problems by about ten per cent. For example, children who watched three hours a day were thirty percent more likely to have attention problems than those who watched no television.

The researchers say that all the children with attention problems might not have A.D.D. But they still could face major learning problems in school. The findings support advice by a group of children’s doctors that children under the age of two should not watch television.

One of the researchers said there are other reasons why children should not watch television. Earlier studies have linked it with children becoming too fat and too aggressive. Other experts say the new study is important, but more work needs to be done to confirm the findings and better explain the cause and effect.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Steve Ember.