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Keep toddlers away from TV

A study from child experts at the Universite de Montreal, the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Centre and the University of Michigan, has found that TV exposure at an early age forecasts negative consequences for kids.

india Updated: May 10, 2010 14:09 IST

Want your kids to be smarter and thinner? Just keep them away from the TV set when they are toddlers.

A study from child experts at the Universite de Montreal, the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Centre and the University of Michigan, has found that TV exposure at an early age forecasts negative consequences for kids, including poor school adjustment, and unhealthy habits.

According to the study, watching too much TV as toddlers meant a seven percent decrease in classroom engagement; a 10 percent increase in victimisation by classmates; a nine percent decrease in general physical activity; a 10 percent peak in snacks intake; and a five percent increase in body mass index (BMI).

"Between the ages of two and four, even incremental exposure to television delayed development," says lead author Linda S. Pagani, a psychosocial professor at the Universite de Montreal.

A total of 1,314 kids took part in the study. Parents were asked to report how much TV their kids watched at 29 months and at 53 months in age. Teachers were asked to evaluate academic, psychosocial and health habits, while BMI was measured at the age of 10.

"Early childhood is a critical period for brain development and formation of behaviour. High levels of TV consumption during this period can lead to future unhealthy habits," Pagani warns.

"Although we expected the impact of early TV viewing to disappear after seven and a half years of childhood, the fact that negative outcomes remained is quite daunting," says Pagani, according to a Universite de Montreal release.

Since TV exposure encourages a sedentary lifestyle, Pagani says TV viewing must be curbed for toddlers to avoid the maintenance of passive mental and physical habits in later childhood.

The findings were published in the Archives of Paediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.