Watching TV may not lead to attention issues in toddlers, study suggests

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Experts say that parents shouldn’t feel guilty about letting their kids watch TV

While many parents are concerned about letting their toddlers spend too much time in front of screens, a new study conducted by researchers from the Association for Psychological Science explored what role TV plays in toddlers’ development

Their findings showed that watching TV isn’t likely to be the culprit for toddlers’ attention issues. However, these results are different from several other studies that have looked at toddlers and screen time

“The findings from the original study, upon further scrutiny, are not borne out,” said researcher Wallace E. Dixon, Jr. “We found that there is still no evidence that TV, by itself, causes ADHD or any kind of attention problems in young children. Our research also tells us that it’s important to be skeptical of earth-shattering findings that come in the form of ‘something that everybody is doing harms our children.’ Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” 

TV alone isn’t to blame for attention issues

The researchers analyzed data from more than 2,000 participants who were enrolled in the National Longitudinal Study of Youth to determine what effect watching TV had on toddlers’ attention spans. They applied a research technique that explores this association from hundreds of different angles and compared them to results from an earlier study. 

Ultimately, they learned that watching TV didn’t have a direct impact on toddlers’ attention issues. Though many parents are worried about how much time their young kids are spending in front of screens, and several studies have drawn links between screen time and attention, the findings from this study showed that exposure to TV alone during the toddler years isn’t likely to lead to attention issues during childhood and beyond. 

The researchers hope that parents and caregivers find solace in these findings and aren’t so hard on themselves for what activities they permit their kids to participate in moving forward. 

“What excites us about this research is that we can ease up on blaming parents or making them feel guilty for letting their children watch television when they are very young,” Dixon said. 

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