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TV toddlers 'become aggressive'

London Telegraph | May 08, 2007 
Sarah Womack

Toddlers who watch too much television can become aggressive and suffer from poor attention span, a survey claims.

The report discovered that an increasing number of children are watching television at a younger age and that nearly half of children in the study were regular viewers of television, video or DVDs by the age of three months.

The figure jumps to 90 per cent of two year olds, according to researchers who say parents are ignoring the health warnings.

Even though the study was carried out in the US, psychologists warned that it had implications for Britain.

The findings, among 1,000 children and published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine journal, come after a psychologist in the UK claimed British children were also spending hours slumped in front of the small screen and it was "the greatest unacknowledged health threat of our time".

Frederick Zimmerman, author of the American study and an associate professor of health services at the University of Washington, said: "Excessive viewing before age three has been shown to be associated with problems of attention control, aggressive behaviour and poor cognitive development."

Dr Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society, said children under three should not be allowed to watch any TV.

Last night, the National Literacy Trust in London said the American study should concern British parents.

Liz Attenborough, director of the trust, said: "It is alarming just how many young children have TVs in their bedrooms and that is to be discouraged because it is very isolating.

"But ultimately it is very sad that people feel a baby needs the kind of entertainment which TV offers when it would be very happy to just listen to a parent pottering around the kitchen and talking."

The American study is the first to look at media viewing in the first two years of life and explores the content of what is being watched as well as parents' reasons for permitting it.

Among those babies and toddlers who watched TV, DVDs or videos, the average daily viewing time jumped from one hour per day for children under a year old to more than 1.5 hours a day by two years of age.

The three most common reasons cited by parents for allowing their children to watch TV, DVDs or videos were:

29 per cent believed they were educational or were good for the child's brain.

23 per cent said viewing was enjoyable or relaxing for the child.

21 per cent used them as an "electronic babysitter" so they could do other things.

Dr Sigman recently told MPs that TV viewing should be rationed.

Children aged three to seven should be limited to 30 minutes to one hour a day. Seven to 12 year olds could be allowed an hour daily. This would be raised to 90 minutes for 12 to 15 year olds and two hours for the over 16s.

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