Switched on to good results

19th June 2009 at 01:00
Watching TV for hours does no academic harm

Watching endless hours of television has no impact at all on primary pupils' academic achievement, research has found.

Academics from Texas Tech University studied the school records of more than 17,500 pupils aged five to 10 years, to determine whether there was any link between TV addiction and academic success or failure.

Past research has shown that one in five children spends more than 35 hours a week watching TV. Some studies have claimed that these habits can have a negative effect on pupils' school work and results.

The Texas Tech researchers examined data on the viewing habits and academic record of 17,565 pupils, from kindergarten through to fifth grade (P5-6).

Parents filled in a questionnaire, describing their children's TV viewing. Researchers examined pupils' reading and maths results throughout primary school, but found no link between the number of hours watched and school results. "A child who watches fewer weekly hours of television . does not have better academic achievement than a child who watches more weekly hours of television," they said. "Children who have better initial academic achievement do not appear to watch significantly fewer hours of weekly television than children who have poorer initial academic achievement."

More significantly, increasing the amount of television watched does not lead to a fall in academic standards. And cutting back does not improve results.

But while the correlation between TV viewing and reading was 0.53, it was only 0.07 with maths. So, while the connection was minimal in both subjects, it was even less significant for maths than for literacy. But a connection between TV viewing and poor academic results may emerge in adolescence. "The possibility exists that, not only must children reach a certain threshold of television exposure to begin to experience a negative influence on their academic achievement, but they must also reach a certain age," they said.

They added that, because TV viewing increases rapidly in the first years of schooling, early childhood teachers should take the opportunity to educate children and their parents about alternative ways of spending their leisure time.

"The association between television viewing and achievement", by Tara Stevens, Lucy Barnard and Yen M To, appears in Teachers College Record.

- www.tcrecord.org.

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