Kids with bedroom TV sets have lower standardized test scores, Stanford/Packard study shows

07/01/05

STANFORD, Calif. - Want to improve your child's standardized test scores? You might want to start by booting out the television that likely occupies a place of honor in your youngster's bedroom and booting up a computer elsewhere in the home.

A new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University indicates that third-graders with televisions in their bedrooms perform significantly more poorly on standardized tests than their peers without. Conversely, those with access to a home computer earn higher test scores. The differences persist regardless of the amount of time the students reported spending on homework.

"This study provides even more evidence that parents should either take the television out of their child's room, or not put it there in the first place," said Thomas Robinson, MD, director of the Center for Healthy Weight at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford and associate professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine.

Robinson is the senior author of the research, published in the July issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. He collaborated with lead author Dina Borzekowski to survey about 350 third-graders at six public elementary schools in northern California in 2000. Borzekowski is an assistant professor in the Department of Population and Family Health Sciences at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins.

The researchers found that more than 70 percent of the students reported having a television in their bedroom. These students scored between seven and nine points lower on standardized mathematics, reading and language arts tests than did their peers. Conversely, those with access to home computers scored between seven and nine points higher than those without. The highest average scores were netted by students with computer access and without a bedroom TV; students with a personal television and without computer access at home scored the lowest, on average.

"This study doesn't prove that putting a television in your child's bedroom will decrease his or her test scores, but it does add to the increasing evidence that it's not a good idea," said Robinson, who is the author of previous studies showing that decreasing children's television viewing reduces obesity, aggressive behavior and nagging for advertised toys

The researchers can't conclusively say why television has such an effect on test scores. Surprisingly, the students who reported spending the most time watching television also claimed to spend more time on homework and reading than kids with more limited exposure, perhaps because they tend to have more difficulty with schoolwork in general. The researchers speculate that the link may have more to do with other factors, such as the fact that children with bedroom televisions have been shown to sleep less than their peers, or that the minority of parents who allow a home computer but prohibit a bedroom television may be more engaged in their child's education.

"A television in a child's bedroom has become the norm," said Robinson. "From the parent's perspective, it keeps kids amused and out of trouble. But with this arrangement parents are giving up any control of how much and what their children are watching. They have no idea if they're watching all night, or if they're watching violent or sexually explicit content, or content or advertising that promotes alcohol or drug use."

But cheer up Mom and Dad - there's still hope. Some of Robinson's future research will focus on developing effective ways to help parents extract televisions from their children's inner sanctums.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.
-- Voltaire