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What Parents Need to Know TVs in Children’s Bedrooms

Is bedside television a normal part of your children’s lives? If so, you will no doubt be interested in what two recent studies have revealed about young children watching TV.

“Close to one in two kindergarten-aged children have their own private bedtime TV.”

Released by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Heath in July and October of 2007, the results indicate many issues with having young children watching too much television, including one common theme: A television in your child's bedroom is not a good idea.

If this seems like a "no-brainer" to you, perhaps you need to check with some of your friends because one of the most surprising statistics in the October study was that forty-one percent of the 2,707 children studied who were 5 years old had a television in their bedroom.

One more time, in case you missed that: Close to one in two kindergarten-aged children have their own private bedtime TV. Are you as astonished at this as I am? And what does all this TV time mean from a child development perspective?

The study released in October focused on behavioral issues resulting from exposure to television at the ages of 2.5 and 5.5. The researchers followed those 2,707 kids over a period of many years so they could see if there were trends toward more or less television viewing as the children approached school age.

The results are pretty much predictable, but the study does hold some surprises. As expected, children with heavy television exposure during the entire period of the study (one in five parents reported their child watched two hours or more television at both 2.5 and 5.5 years of age) were more likely to exhibit behavioral problems. Perhaps more significant was children who were heavily exposed to television at the earlier age of 2.5, but then had their tube-time significantly reduced or were weaned off the set completely by 5.5 showed no behavioral problems that correlated with television viewing.

In other words, if you are tempted to use the TV as a childcare support device when you children are very young, make serious plans to reduce their exposure as they become older.

In the area of social skills (as opposed to behavioral problems), the findings skewed a little differently. Kids who watched little TV at the earlier age but ramped up their viewing time as they grew older were more likely to have problems cooperating and maintaining self-control, according to lead author Kamila Mistry in a CanWest News Service article.

However, if you put a television in the child's bedroom, the problems are compounded, with the parents of 5.5 year olds who have their own private televisions reporting more behavioral and sleeping problems.

These statistics fall right into place as a sequel to the July study from earlier in 2007 that assessed private television access in bedrooms against achievement test scores for grade 3 students in Northern California.

"In this study, we found that the household media environment was related to a child's academic achievement," said Dina Borzekowski, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Population and Family Health Sciences, who was quoted in The JHU Gazette (the university newspaper of John Hopkins University). "We saw that even when controlling for the parent's education level, the child's gender and the amount of media used per week, those who had bedroom TV sets scored around eight points lower on math and language arts tests and seven points lower on reading tests."

Certainly these two studies mesh together to suggest there really is no time in a child's life when it is a good idea to have a television in his or her bedroom.

However, the July information did indicate that another type of screen can have a beneficial impact.

"A home computer showed the opposite relationship | children with access to a home computer had scores that were around six points higher on the math and the language arts test and four points higher on the reading test, controlling for the same variables," says Borzekowski, who adds the best combination is no TV in the bedroom and a computer somewhere else in the home.

Obviously, a home computer can introduce other pitfalls parents need to be aware of, including inappropriate content on websites and privacy concerns for children. However, with proper filtering, and if it is located in a busy "public" area of your home, it appears the good outweighs the bad.

As for television, it clearly appears the idea of putting a screen in junior's bedroom should be put to rest.

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