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December 10, 2009 at 12:57 PMComments: 10 Faves: 0

TV Linked to ADHD in Children

By Erin Froehlich More Blogs by This Author

Much has changed since the 1950's when televisions first became affordable for the mass audience. Studies show that 99% of American households now have at least one TV.

We now have access to hundreds of channels and there isn't much that writers and producers can't do. With this boom in viewing options, there has also been an increase in the number of interested viewers and the amount they are willing to watch. However, easy entertainment has its drawbacks.

Major investigations are underway to determine how this increased television viewing is affecting our youth. One conclusion is ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In support of this conclusion, studies show a spike in the number of children diagnosed with ADHD in the 1950's and a higher spike in the mid 1980's when VCRs became normal household equipment.

Dr. Christakis, lead researcher and director of the Child Health Institute at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, Seattle, Washington explains: "In contrast to the way real life unfolds and is experienced by young children, the pace of TV is greatly sped up..." Quick scene shifts of video images become "normal" to a baby "when in fact, it's decidedly not normal or natural." It is believed that this exposure may over-stimulate the developing brain of infants and young children.

In fact, Dr. Christakis points out that for every hour a child under four watches TV, their chances for developing an attention disorder increase by 10%. Still, 26% of American toddlers have TVs in their bedrooms, and 36% of American families leave the TV on all day, whether someone is watching or not.

For this reason, pediatricians now recommend that children under age 4 watch no more than one hour of television a day. Though television is easy entertainment, there are so many other, more beneficial, ways for children to enjoy their days. Try filling the time that would have been used to watch TV with drawing, dancing, reading, playing games and sports, and family time. As hard as writers and producers try, TV just can't compare to real life experiences and time shared together.


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  • This just makes so much sense. Beyond television, you would think all of the electronic distractions play a part as well. Can children take a ride in the family car without their
    Nidtendo DS or backseat video screen in their faces?

    Remember playing out of doors in fresh air and creative play?

    Kelly Stone

  • Good point. TV is not the only screen children are spending too much time in front of. I have a feeling as time goes on a similar problem concerning computer/ internet use will appear. With so much easy entertainment available to children, parents need to be even more diligent about making sure their children are getting enough active and imaginative play and a minimal amount of time in front of a screen.

    Erin Froehlich

  • And what about kids reading books? Prolonged concentration is something that must be learned for everyone; people who are predisposed to ADHD need that much more practice. Regular reading (even youngsters looking at pictures and using their imagination) is a good anti-ADHD countermeasure.

  • Wow...some of those stats are really surprising - especially the percentage of toddlers with a TV in their bedroom and the percentage of families who leave their TV on all day. I grew up in a family where TV was pretty much never a big deal (we never had TVs in our rooms - just the one in the family room, and a little one in the kitchen for watching the news during breakfast).

    In fact, when I was younger, maybe 7 or 8, my parents thought my brother was starting to become too addicted to "screen time," so for six weeks, they cut off all TV and computer time and got rid of cable. We've never had cable since, and TV was just never important to us after that. I think it was one of the best things my parents ever did for us.

  • Dr. Jeff - I completely agree with that! Reading strengthens vocabulary, creativity and attention span. Great readers become better writers and speakers through the effort. We read a story with our daughter every night and she does her own reading throughout the day.

    Laura - It IS sort of scary how much TV has become a part of family life! It's hard to resist instant and effortless entertainment you can get from the comfort of your couch. My family and I has been without TV or internet at home for almost 2 years now and while I do miss the convenience and certain things from each medium on occasion, overall I'm really glad. I wouldn't get cable again. *I* get sucked into and waste too much time when I have it - plus, I'm glad that my daughter spends time playing, drawing and reading instead of zoning out in front of a TV screen.

  • In our house, we regularly have NO TV days. It's exactly what it sounds like, not one moment of TV for the whole day. We've also had more intensive NO ELECTRONICS days, just to encourage our kids to read a book, play outside, play a board or card game, work in the garden, hike through the woods, catch frogs, sit in a lawn chair or lay in the grass and find shapes in the clouds, or just spend time talking or cooking a meal with us... realize that life can exist without something powered in your hand.

    Personally, I find those days to be the easiest to deal with our kids. Even at bed time, they're ready for a quick read and then off to sleep.

  • I agree with Laura and Erin. TV has become a big part of our lives. Sometimes even our daily lives. That may not be true for everyone, but I've had to cut down. My husband and I decided not to get cable. When I used to have cable, I would sit and watch TV way too much. We opted for just having Netflix. But Netflix acts the same as cable for us. We still can end up spending too much time watching episode after episode of our favorite shows.

    It comes down moderation. Balancing time between electronics and other activities is key. But moderation is so hard to live by sometimes! It's easy to talk about it, but to act on it...that's what's difficult.

    We do sort of what Seth does with his kids. We have NO TV times during the day and sometimes NO TV days. When we have kids we will probably do something similar with them. I don't want them addicted to TV, computers, video games, etc.

  • I love it when my kids are reading vs. watching TV or playing with any other electronic. As parents, it is our responsibility to control and limit electronic/TV interaction. Parents need to set the example, my kids see me read all the time, even in bed before I go to sleep and now they both LOVE to do that, it is a great down time before lights out. Reading is big in our family! Parents need to set the example first and lay down the rules and boundaries with the electronics/TV. When they were little I actually told them they had to read for 15 minutes to earn 15 minutes of electronic time, let me tell you that worked out FANTASTIC! They knew what the rule was, there was never an argument and I got what I wanted and they got what they wanted! Remember to visit your library often and have kids pick out books that peak their interest. Start young, I was reading to my kids at 6 months old. Thanks for discussing this!

  • Moderation is key in all things, yes, but to ignore the social implications that modern media platforms offer kids could be detrimental. All of us have fond memories of past times that didn't involve electronics, but even we are from a generation far gone on the technological scale. We can rage and rally against the movement as much as we want, but there is no stopping it. Embrace the movement for what it is and then begin to apply new rules, learn to enjoy the platforms offered with your children, learn the lingo involved and you may find the movement has more to offer than you think.

  • I see your point, E.M.. I definitely wouldn't want to deny my kids technology. It's a huge part of our society today, and like you said that to deny could be detrimental.

    I use technology everyday and I'm definitely not against it. It's just hard seeing people who are addicted to it (i can be sometimes!). That's why you set ground rules.

    I just taught my mom how to play mario kart on the Wii and we had a great bonding experience. But we only played 2 rounds and then we were done. In the future, I'd like to apply that to when I have kids. Have them teach me a new video game, but enforce a time limit or something to that extent.

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