This site is intended for health professionals only

TV damage in children not irreversible

Young children who watch two or more hours of television a day can develop behavioural problems and poor social skills, research shows.

But experts say that reducing a child's television viewing time can improve their behavioural problems, and the damage is not irreversible.

Scientists from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health asked 27,707 parents about the children's television viewing habits and behaviour.

One in five parents reported that their children watched two hours or more of television each day at both 2 and a half and 5 and a half years of age.

Another 15% of parents reported that their children watched more than two hours of television only later on in childhood, at 5.5 years of age.

Sustained exposure to television from age 2 to 5 was found to be associated with behavioural problems.

But children who watched a lot of television at an early age and then cut back had less problems with social skills.

"Children who reduced their viewing by 5.5 years of age were not at greater risk for behaviour and social problems," said senior study author Cynthia Minkovitz.

"It is vital for clinicians to emphasise the importance of reducing television viewing in early childhood among those children with early use."

Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health