Watching television for more than a couple of hours a day is linked to lower school readiness skills in kindergartners, particularly among children from low-income families, finds a study by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and Université Sainte-Anne.
The findings, published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, reinforce the need for limits on screen time, such as those laid out by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Research has shown that watching television is negatively associated with early academic skills, but little is known about how socioeconomic status influences television viewing and child development. In the current study, the researchers examined whether the negative relationship between watching television and school readiness varied by family income.
Andrew Ribner, the study’s lead author, and his colleagues looked at data from 807 kindergartners of diverse backgrounds. Their parents reported family income, as well as the number of hours of television their children watch on a daily basis. Video game, tablet, and smartphone use were not included in the measurement.
Children were assessed using measures of math, knowledge of letters and words, and executive function – key cognitive and social-emotional competencies, including working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control, that are viewed as fundamental for school readiness.
The researchers found that the number of hours of television young children watch is related to decreases in their school readiness, particularly their math skills and executive function. This association was strongest when children watched more than two hours of television.
As family incomes decreased, the link between television watching and drops in school readiness grew, meaning children from low-income families are hurt more by watching too much television.
Read the full press release for this study here.