TV to blame for Attention Deficit Disorder?

TV to blame for Attention Deficit Disorder?
Brace yourselves for a whale of a class-action lawsuit. When the lawyers get ahold of a study being published in Pediatrics magazine, nobody involved in programming television for kids will be safe. According to The Associated Press, researchers have found that every hour preschoolers watch television each day boosts their chances — by about 10 percent — of developing attention deficit problems later in life.

In a Pediatrics editorial, educational psychologist Jane Healy said the study “is important and long overdue” but needs to be followed up to confirm and better explain the mechanisms that may be involved.

The researchers didn’t know what shows the children watched, but (Dr. Dimitri) Christakis (a researcher at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle) said content likely isn’t the culprit. Instead, he said, unrealistically fast-paced visual images typical of most TV programming may alter normal brain development.

“The newborn brain develops very rapidly during the first two to three years of life. It’s really being wired” during that time, Christakis said.

“We know from studies of newborn rats that if you expose them to different levels of visual stimuli … the architecture of the brain looks very different” depending on the amount of stimulation, he said.

Overstimulation during this critical period “can create habits of the mind that are ultimately deleterious,” Christakis said. If this theory holds true, the brain changes likely are permanent, but children with attention problems can be taught to compensate, he said.

Five years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics said that children under 2 shouldn’t watch television, because of concerns about brain development, but this is the first evidence I’ve seen that links TV to a psychological ailment. The comments above about a lawsuit are not entirely facetious, but if there is blame, it rests with the parents (self included) who’ve put their babies in Swing-o-matics in front of the tube as a way to avoid/deal with parenting.

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