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Ninety Percent of Kids Under Two Watching TV

Researchers are finally realizing the lives of children are partially, if not largely, managed by a TV set very early on, and that very fact can cause considerable damage to their mental health, according to a pair of new studies from the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

In one report, an astonishing 90 percent of American children under age 2 and as much as 40 percent of babies under 3 months old watch TV, videos and DVDs regularly. Based on a survey of families in two states, kids at 3 months watched less than an hour of TV daily. That viewing time climbed as children reached the toddler stage to 90 minutes.

As that TV time escalates with age, according to the second study tracking children from ages 14-22, then comes the damage that surfaces from attention and learning problems, hurting their performance in school for the long haul. In fact, there was a direct correlation between the amount of TV a teenager watched and experiencing future attention and learning problems, along with poorer attitudes and not even finishing high school.

The good news among all these alarming numbers: Young teens whose TV time was cut in half to an hour a day or less also slashed their risk of failing in school by 50 percent. Conversely, 14-year-olds who added an hour to their daily viewing (from less than two hours per day) doubled their chances of academic failure by age 16.

These two studies don't take into account all the ads kids are exposed to on TV -- a potential 40,000 commercials annually, with most of them selling sweetened cereals and fast-food chain giveaways.

Based on the alarming results of these studies, there's no reason not to set more stringent limits on the time your family spends in front of a TV and find better, healthier activities from them to do that have nothing in common with sitting for hours in front of a "glow box."

Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Vol. 161, No. 5, May 2007: 473-479

Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Vol. 161, No. 5, May 2007: 480-486

MSNBC May 8, 2007

Yahoo News May 8, 2007

Reuters May 7, 2007