The act of reading fosters habits of analysis, questioning, comprehension, and rationality. Television, with its emphasis on emotion, image, and speed, fails to contribute to the development of these key skills.

- The NCES (2000)



TV Statistics - How Much Do Kids Watch?


What Does Make Kids Smarter?





Cognitive Effects of TV



"Angeline Lillard and Jennifer Peterson, both of the University of Virginia's department of psychology, wanted to see whether watching fast-paced television had an immediate influence on kids' executive function -- skills including attention, working memory, problem solving and delay of gratification that are associated with success in school. Television's negative effect on executive function over the long term has been established, the researchers wrote Monday in the journal Pediatrics, but less is known about its immediate effects. To test what those might be, Lillard and Peterson randomly assigned 60 4-year-olds to three groups: one that watched nine minutes of a fast-paced, "very popular fantastical cartoon about an animated sponge that lives under the sea;" one that watched nine minutes of slower-paced programming from a PBS show "about a typical U.S. preschool-aged boy;" and a third group that was asked to draw for nine minutes with markers and crayons. Immediately after their viewing and drawing tasks were complete, the kids were asked to perform four tests to assess executive function.  Unfortunately for the denizens of Bikini Bottom, the kids who watched nine minutes of the frenetic high jinks of the "animated sponge" scored significantly worse than the other kids." -  Los Angeles Times (Sept 2011)  and  Pediatrics (Sept 2011)  and Medical News Today (Sept 2011)  and  USA Today (Sept 2011)  and  Science Daily (Sept 2011)  and  Mail Online (Sept 2011)  and  PsychCentral (Sept 2011)  and  Earth Sky (Sept 2011)  and  Obesity Panacea (Sept 2011)  and  The New York Times (Sept 2011)  and  San Francisco Chronicle (Sept 2011)  and  Psypost (Sept 2011)  and  sott.net (Sept 2011)  and  Psychology Today (Sept 2011)  and  Live Science (Sept 2011)  and  US News Health (Sept 2011)  and  MedPage Today (Sept 2011)


"Christakis's mice were divided into two groups, one in a normal environment and one in which the mice were overstimulated. After the first 10 days of the mice's lives, the overstimulated mice's cartons were bombarded with audio from cartoons and flashing lights that were in rhythm with the audio for six hours a night. Their mothers also remained in the cartons with them. Then they tested cognition, behavior, and activity in the mice. They found that the overstimulated mice were hyperactive, took more risks, and had learning problems.” - Medical Daily (July 2012)  and  Scientific Reports (July 2012)  and  Seattle Mama Doc (Jan 2012)  and  You Tube (Dec 2011)  and  NCBI (July 2012)  and  International Business News (Feb 2012)  and  Neuro Research Project (July 2012)  and  Roots of Action (2012)  and  tvSmarter Blog (March 2014) 


"Middle-class 6-year-olds matched for sex, age, pretest WPPSI IQ, and TV-viewing time were blindly assigned to a restricted TV-viewing group or an unrestricted group. Restricted parents halved subjects' previous TV-viewing rates and interacted 20 min./day with subjects for a 6-week period. Unrestricted TV parents provided similar interactions but did not limit viewing. Results tentatively suggest that TV restriction enhanced Performance IQ, reading time, and reflective Matching Familiar Figures scores." - Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology (Winter 1980)


"Watching too much television can change the structure of a child's brain in a damaging way, according to a new study. Researchers found that the more time a child spent viewing TV, the more profound the brain alterations appeared to be. The Japanese study looked at 276 children aged between five and 18, who watched between zero and four hours TV per day, with the average being about two hours. MRI brain scans showed children who spent the most hours in front of the box had greater amounts of grey matter in regions around the frontopolar cortex - the area at the front of the frontal lobe. But this increased volume was a negative thing as it was linked with lower verbal intelligence, said the authors, from Tohoku University in the city of Sendai. They suggested grey matter could be compared to body weight and said these brain areas need to be pruned during childhood in order to operate efficiently. ‘These areas show developmental cortical thinning during development, and children with superior IQs show the most vigorous cortical thinning in this area,’ the team wrote."  -    Daily Mail (Jan 2014)  and  Washington Post (Dec 2013)  and  Cerebral Cortex (Nov 2013)


"Subsequent work by Malach and colleagues has found that, when we're engaged in intense "sensorimotor processing" - and nothing is more intense than staring at a massive screen with Dolby surround sound while wearing 3-D glasses - we actually inhibit these prefrontal areas. The scientists argue that such "inactivation" allows us to lose ourself in the movie" - Frontal Cortex (Jan 2010)


"There was greater frontal lobe activation in children when they were engaged in a picture book reading task with their mothers, as opposed to passive viewing of a videotape in which the story was read to them. Social and verbal engagement of the mother in reading picture books with her young child may mediate frontal brain activity in the child." -  Pubmed (Oct 2009) 


"The EEG studies similarly show less mental stimulation, as measured by alpha brain-wave production, during viewing than during reading."  -  Scientific American (Feb 2002)






"...watching three or more hours of television a day leads to poor homework completion, negative attitudes toward school, bad grades, and poor performance in college, according to a study published this week. " - CS Monitor (May 2007)





"Young people spend an average of three hours a day watching TV, and close to four hours a day (3:51) when videos and prerecorded shows are included. TV-watching time is highest among younger kids: 8-to 10-year-olds spend more than four hours a day (4:10), including videos and recorded shows." - Kaiser (March 2005)






TV Effects Schoolwork


"In a finding that may spur on-the-fence parents to set some limits, researchers found that clamping down on both screen time and media content directly impacted the kids' sleep: kids actually got more shut eye every week. It also was linked to improved academic performance, meaning kids got better grades in school. And since kids got more sleep, limiting screen time also indirectly affected body mass index and resulted in a "lower risk of obesity," investigators stated. In addition, "prosocial" behavior (such as helpful and cooperative behavior in school) rose, while aggressive behavior (like pushing and shoving) dropped. These gains were seen seven months after the parents set limits."  -  What To Expect (April 2014)  and  Iowa State University (March 2014)  and  Science World Report (April 2014)  and  JAMA Pediatrics (May 2014)


"Among teachers who say their students’ academic skills have been hurt by entertainment media use, the media most often cited as problematic are texting, social networking, video games, and television, depending on the students’ age."  - Common Sense Media (Nov 2012)


"Big Brother and Little Britain are the television programmes that cause the most problem behaviour among children in schools, according to teachers surveyed by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL)." - Guardian (March 2009)


"NAEP Reading Score vs. Hours TV/video Watched on School Day 17 Year Olds, National"  -  Wing Institute (2009)


"When it comes to excessive television and computer use (not including academic use), 30.4 percent of students surveyed reported excessive screen time. Thirteen percent of those with the issue reported that it impacted their studies; these students had a lower mean GPA of 3.04 compared with a mean GPA of 3.27 for those who said the problem did not impact them. "Turning off the computer or TV and going to sleep is one of the best things our students can do to improve their grades," Ehlinger said."  - E! Science News (Oct 2008)


"The roughly 40 percent increase in attention problems among heavy TV viewers was observed in both boys and girls, and was independent of whether a diagnosis of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder was made prior to adolescence." - Reuters (Sept 2007) also  NZ Herald (Sept 2007)  also New Scientist (Sept 2007)


"What happens if you deprive a group of 7 and 8 year olds of computers, television and games consoles for two weeks?... Even after just two weeks, families found they began to interact more, even to ‘rediscover’ their pleasure in each other’s company... There was no conclusive evidence that the temporary absence of TV and game consoles resulted in changed behaviour in school, but spin-off educational benefits were likely to accrue from the greater enthusiasm many of the children showed for doing homework and as a result of going to bed earlier when there was no TV to tempt them to stay up late at night."  -  Science Daily (June 2007)


"Teenagers who watch television for three or more hours per day may have a higher risk of attention and learning difficulties in their adolescent and early adult years, according to a report in the May issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine." - News-Medical.net (May 2007) and New Scientist (May 2007) and The Guardian (May 2007)


"Middle school students who watch TV or play video games during the week do worse in school, a new study finds, but weekend viewing and gaming doesn't affect school performance much." -  USAToday (Oct 2006)   and   Telegraph (Oct 2006)  and  CBS News (Oct 2006)  and MSNBC (Oct 2006)  and  Softpedia (Oct 2006)


"Children who watch violent horror and action movies suffer from poorer grades at school, according to new research." - Telegraph (Oct 2006)


"The results also showed that for seven- to 12-year-olds, the more TV they watched, the less time they spent doing homework, and among kids of all ages -- especially among those younger than five -- more TV meant significantly less creative play." - MedPage Today (Feb 2006)  and  Pediatrics (Feb 2006)


"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. "Schools are expected to `deliver results', yet they have an insurmountable obstruction in the form of a TV screen.""  - Manchester Evening News (Oct 2005)


"No matter what your intelligence or social background, watching a lot of television during childhood means you are a lot less likely to have a degree by your mid-twenties, according to new University of Otago research." - University of Otago (July 2005) and PubMed (July 2005)


"Too much TV-watching can harm children’s ability to learn and even reduce their chances of getting a college degree, three new studies suggest in the latest effort to examine the effects of television on kids." - MSNBC (July 2005)


"Results showed that 3 hypothetical models fit the data-the time-displacement hypothesis, the mental effort- passivity hypothesis, and the attention-arousal hypothesis. A 4th hypothetical model, the learning-information hypothesis, which proposed that children's television viewing practices stimulate their academic achievement, was not supported. In sum, children who watched more television tended to spend less time doing homework, studying, and reading for leisure. In addition, their behaviors became more impulsive, which resulted in an eventual decrease in their academic achievement." - PubMed (Dec 2004)  and  APA PsycNET (Dec 2004)  and  RedOrbit (Jan 2005)


"This Policy Information Report pulls together many of the measures that reflect what goes on outside school and within the realm of the home in terms of educational achievement. Topics include television watching, homework, parent involvement, family resources, absence from school, and reading at home."  -  ETS.org (1992)






TV in the Bedroom


"Children with bedroom TVs score lower on school tests and are more likely to have sleep problems. Having a television in the bedroom is strongly associated with being overweight and a higher risk for smoking." - The New York Times (March 2008)


"A study of elementary school students found that children who had television sets in their bedrooms scored significantly lower on school achievement tests than children without TVs in their bedrooms." - Science Daily (July 2007)


"TV in child's room may hinder learning" - MSNBC (July 2005)


"One in three children between the age of 6 months and 6 years have a TV set in their bedrooms. And children who have TVs in their bedrooms spend an average 30 minutes more per day watching TV than those who don't." - Washington Post (May 2006)


"The Watching, Wanting and Wellbeing report from the National Consumer Council found nearly half the children from better-off families surveyed had televisions in their bedrooms, compared with 97% of the nine- to 13-year-olds from less well-off areas." - The Guardian (July 2007)





The Importance of Reading


Reading versus Television





Preparing for School (children under six)


""We've known that television exposure during infancy is associated with language delays and attentional problems, but so far it has remained unclear why," said Christakis. "This study is the first to demonstrate that when the television is on, there is reduced speech in the home. Infants vocalize less and their caregivers also speak to them more infrequently."" - Science Daily (June 2009)


"The results of this study have important implications for language acquisition. It indicates exposure to language via television is insufficient for teaching language to very young children. To learn new words, children must be actively engaged in the process with responsive language teachers." - Science Daily (July 2007)


"In the latest study on the effects of popular videos such as the "Baby Einstein" and "Brainy Baby" series, researchers find that these products may be doing more harm than good. And they may actually delay language development in toddlers." - Time (August 2007)


"It turns out that background television -- even simple background noise -- can affect young children more than we might think. According to a series of studies that have accumulated over the past decade, growing up in a noisy or "always on" TV environment may have negative consequences for speech development, playtime and parent-child interaction."  -  Washington Post (Oct 2007)


"Can the noise level inside your house actually make it harder for your baby to learn to talk? Researchers now say turning down the TV can actually help your child find their voice faster. "  -  Science Daily (Sept 2005)


"The more television infants and toddlers watch, the more likely they are to have trouble paying attention and concentrating during their early school years, a study reports Monday." - USAToday (April 2004)


"Children under the age of three who are allowed to watch too much television have below-average reading abilities by the time they are six, a new study claims." - Telegraph (Nov 2005)


"Approximately 40 percent of three-month old children and about 90 percent of children age 24 months and under regularly watch television" - Science Daily (May 2007)


In The Plug-In Drug : Television, Computers, and Family Life, Marie Winn argues TV viewing by very young children and their parents leads to delayed language acquisition and then to reading and cognitive problems later on.


"But smart kids with educated parents watch less TV and spend more time reading books, the national study of more than 3000 four and five-year-olds shows." - Child Up (July 2007)


"According to the Associated Press, the report found that "very young children" (under age 6) who live in homes where the television is on most of the time may have more trouble learning how to read than other kids their age."    CBS News (Oct 2003)


"Daily television viewing for two or more hours in early childhood can lead to behavioral problems and poor social skills, according to a study of children 2.5 to 5.5 years of age conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health."  -  Science Daily (Oct 2007)


"The number of parents reading to their children regularly has fallen dramatically in the past two years, research has found. " - The Telegraph (Sept 2008)


"Heavy TV viewing under 2 is found. Ignoring risks, parents cite 'educational' value." - Boston.com (May 2007)






The Importance of Talking


"All-day television, the demise of the family meal and even the forward-facing design of pushchairs are conspiring to kill the art of conversation between parents and children. The results have "alarming implications" for pupil behaviour in the first few years of primary school..."  - The Independent (April 2006)


"Young children, more used to watching television than talking, are to be encouraged to improve their communication skills." - BBC (Nov 2003)


Family Meals spell S-U-C-C-E-S-S "A Reader’s Digest survey of more than 2,000 high-school seniors compared academicachievement with family characteristics. Eating meals with their family was a stronger predictor of academic success than whether they lived with one or both parents." - Purdue University






The Importance of Creative Play


Self-Regulation, Creative Play, and Television via Unplug Your Kids  more at  tvSmarter blog   Fairies and Philosophy


Young Children Need to Play! - Illinois Early Learning


What About Play? When "screen time" and drills replace open-ended play, kids lose out - Rethinking Schools


“The results also showed that for seven- to 12-year-olds, the more TV they watched, the less time they spent doing homework, and among kids of all ages — especially among those younger than five — more TV meant significantly less creative play.” - Med Page Today (Feb 2006)






More TV = Less Attention


"Conditioning attentional skills: examining the effects of the pace of television editing on children's attention"


"Methods: School children (aged 4–7 years) were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Each group was presented with either a fast- or slow-edit 3.5-min film of a narrator reading a children's story. Immediately following film presentation, both groups were presented with a continuous test of attention."


"Results: Performance varied according to experimental group and age. In particular, we found that children's orienting networks and error rates can be affected by a very short exposure to television."


"Conclusion: Just 3.5 min of watching television can have a differential effect on the viewer depending on the pacing of the film editing. These findings highlight the potential of experimentally manipulating television exposure in children and emphasize the need for more research in this previously under-explored topic." - Acta Pædiatrica (June 2009)






TV and Learning


"...students who reported watching three or fewer hours of television each day had higher average reading scores than students who reported watching more television" - National Center for Education Statistics (March 1999)


"Does TV viewing harm kids' brain development?" - New Citizen (Fall 1992)


"Many studies, including NAEP reports, have indicated a negative relationship between television viewing and reading achievement (Mullis, et al. 1993; Beentjes and Van der Voort, 1988). One major concern has been that time spent watching television may be displacing time that students could spend on literacy-related activities. In 1994, students who reported watching at least four hours of television daily displayed lower average reading scores than their peers who watched less television each day (table 4)." - NAEP (1994)


Excerpted from Endangered Minds - Kids' Brains Must Be Different ...


"To sum up: the introduction of television made kids more aggressive, harmed the acquistion of reading skills, decreased creativity scores, and cut participation in non-TV leisure activities." - A Review: The Impact of Television: A Natural Experiment in Three Communities  see Amazon






Educational TV


Imagination is more important than knowledge, for while knowledge points to all there is, imagination points to all there will be - Einstein


But what about educational TV?  TV is an effective means of passive learning.  Unfortunately TV (educational or not) associates a very rewarding experience with no effort.  Before TV there was no equivalent experience other than day dreaming.  So kids get used to learning and being rewarded with no effort on their part, in other words watching TV is actually training their brain to be lazy. Then when it's time to start school, learning takes effort and is quite boring compared to TV.  Even play takes effort, hence the common observation that kids who watch a lot of TV are less interested in playing.


Well, why not just have the kids go to school and learn from educational TV? Education is about more than just info aquisition, it's also about learning skills, such as reading, writing, math, etc. And learning skills takes effort.  After thousands of hours of effortless learning (and being rewarded) kids are that much less motivated to make that effort. And that's something that makes life much harder for our nation's teachers.


For those kids not raised on TV, making an effort becomes second-nature. This would help explain this study: ...watching a lot of television during childhood means you are a lot less likely to have a degree by your mid-twenties, according to new University of Otago research


Maybe it's the failed work ethic of todays kids


Self-Discipline More Important Than IQ ?


High IQ: Not as good for you as you thought


The secret of self-control


Passive Learning From Television (pdf)


Habit Learning - TV Makes Learning Less Efficient


Young Children Need to Play!







What Does Make Kids Smarter...






Video Games


"A new study by Weis and Cerankosky, to be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, suggests that video-game ownership may negatively impact some aspects of school performance." - Psychology Today Blog (March 2010)  and  Psychology Today Blog (April 2010)  and  Science Daily (March 2010) 


"On school days, teen boys who play video games appear to spend less time reading and teen girls who play video games appear to spend less time doing homework than those who do not play video games" - ScienceDaily (July 2007)






Recommended Websites


Bowling Alone 


Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood


Ellen Currey Wilson – The Big Turnoff 


Herber Valley Unplugged


I’m Missing All Of My Shows 


Instead of TV 


Kill Your Television 


Media by Choice


Media Violence Resource Center


Plato's Cave


Play Unplugged


Screen Free Project


Screen Free Week


Television vs Children 


The New Citizen


Turn Off That TV


TV Smarter - Blog 


TV Stinks 


Unplug Your Kids 


White Dot 


White Dot – Forum 



Recommended Articles


"Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor"


University of Otago research - TV and Academic Achievement


University of Otago research - TV and Crime


Unplug Your Brain - by Jerry Mander


Why Turnoff Completely


The Dangers of TV


 TV Promoting Guns


Television and Children (University of Michigan)


Strangers in Our Homes: TV and Our Children's Minds


Excerpted from Endangered Minds - Kids' Brains Must Be Different


How Background TV Undermines Well-Being


Electronic Screen Syndrome and the rise of mental disorders in children


1000 studies over 30 years


selling audiences to advertisers


How TV Teaches Stupidity


8 Changes I Experienced After Giving Up TV


Top 5 reasons NOT to watch TV this Fall


Spudding Out


Why TV Undermines Academics & Values


Newsweek is Bad for Kids


Bowling Alone - The Strange Disappearance of Civic America


TV Legitimizing Torture


The Assault on Reason


Twilight of the Books


Evolution Of Despair


Alzheimer's & TV


Preventing Obesity


Trained to Kill


Mind-altering media


Effects of TV - Before & After


A Powerful, Massive Protest: Diminish the Corporate Media's Power by Turning off Your TV for Good!


5 Ways Parents May Be Sabotaging Their Kids’ Health


Food companies manipulate kids and parents to create lifelong loyal customers


Is an overlooked source of childhood obesity staring us in the face?


Eight Reasons Why TV is Evil


"What most surprised me were the results I got from my study, which found that the more kids are exposed to consumer culture, they likelier they are to become depressed, suffer from anxiety, or experience low self-esteem. I would have thought it was the other way around — that consumer culture was the symptom, not the cause."




TV Limiting Technology


List & Comparison of TV blockers


Token Timer


Power Cop


Play Limit


Power Plug Lock


Time Machine


Eye Timer


TV Be Gone


TV Be Gone - Article


Stanford Student Media Awareness to Reduce Television (SMART) curriculum is being used in California and Michigan. SMART in San Francisco, SMART in Canada