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TV doesn't hurt babies but doesn't help either

WATCHING television neither hurts nor helps babies' development, a study released yesterday has concluded.

The study of 872 children found no correlation between the amount of time they had spent viewing TV before they were 2 and their progress at age 3.

On average, the children had watched nearly one hour of television per day at the age of 6 months and 1.4 hours a day by age 2, according to the report published in Pediatrics magazine.

Surveys show 68 percent of babies under 2 view some screen media such as television or a computer on a typical day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children younger than 2 never watch screen media, while some video makers promote their wares as educational.

In the study, children living in homes with lower household income or whose mothers had less education were more likely to watch more TV. Non-white children also watched more.

The children were given vocabulary, drawing, object matching and pegboard tests to evaluate their verbal and motor skills at 6 months and again at 3 years.

Those who had watched more television as infants performed less well on tests at age 3, but the effect disappeared after adjusting for the mother's education, vocabulary, household income and other socioeconomic factors.

"Contrary to parents' perceptions that TV viewing is beneficial to their children's brain development, we found no evidence of cognitive benefit from watching TV during the first two years of life," wrote Marie Schmidt of Children's Hospital Boston with colleagues from Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

The findings paralleled those of other studies that found television viewing had no impact on academic achievement among older children and adolescents.

But there are still reasons to curtail viewing. Children who watch more TV run higher risks of being overweight and having attention problems.


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