Television 'Damaging Children's Brains'

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Byline: By ANNA FARLEY

Watching tv may damage children's brain development leading to increased anti-social behaviour, new research claims. There is also a correlation between the amount of television children watch and the degree of educational damage they suffer, according to a book out this week by Dr Aric Sigman, who is an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society.

And significant long term damage occurs even at so-called modest levels of viewing - between one and two hours a day, the book, entitled Remotely Controlled, says.

Children now spend more time watching a TV screen than they spend in school, but viewing even a moderate amount can dramatically increase their risk of myopia, slow down their metabolic rate and may trigger premature puberty, according to Dr Sigman.

It was also found to lead to a 'significantly elevated risk' of sleep problems in adulthood, causing hormone changes, which in turn directly increase appetite and body fat production and damage the immune system leading to a greater vulnerability to cancer.

While the average Briton watches four hours of TV a day, children aged 11-15 spend seven and a half hours a day watching TV and computers - an increase of 40% in a decade - the scientist claims.

More than half of three-year- olds have a TV set in their bedrooms and the average six-year- old will have already watched nearly one full year of their lives.

Dr Sigman said, 'A 'dose-response relationship' between the amount of television children watch and the degree of educational damage they suffer is now emerging which has 'biological plausibility'.

'Television viewing is also now linked with stunting brain development in the child's frontal lobes leading to reduced impulse control and increased antisocial behaviour.

'Teachers are under pressure to vie for the child's attentional resources which have been damaged by exposure to fast changing screen images. This leaves teachers facing a generation of children who find it more difficult to pay attention and thereby learn but also exhibit poor self-restraint and anti-social behaviour. …