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KILL YOUR TELEVISION?: New Zealand Study Connects Excessive Television Viewing with Lower Levels of Educational Attainment

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"increased childhood and adolescent television viewing time was associated with a higher chance of having no formal qualifications and a lower chance of having obtained a university degree by twenty-six years of age."

Increased time spent watching television during childhood and adolescence is associated with a lower level of educational attainment by early adulthood, according to a new research study, “Association of Television Viewing During Childhood with Poor Educational Achievement,” published in the July 2005 issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The study shows that the effects were independent of intelligence, family socioeconomic status, and childhood behavioral problems.

As part of the research, information was collected on an individual’s television-watching habits beginning at age five. Between the ages of five and eleven, children’s parents were asked how much time the study members watched television during the week. At thirteen and fifteen years of age, study members were asked about their TV habits on weekdays and weekends. At age twenty-six, an individual’s highest level of education attainment was scored on a four-point scale: 1, no qualifications; 2, any school certification pass; 3, higher-level school qualification or postschool qualification (trade certificate or diploma); and 4, bachelor’s degree or higher.

Overall, research found that study members watched television for a mean time of 2.06 hours on weekdays between five and eleven years of age, and 3.13 hours per weekday at thirteen and fifteen years of age.

According to the report, and as the embedded figure demonstrates, “increased childhood and adolescent television viewing time was associated with a higher chance of having no formal qualifications and a lower chance of having obtained a university degree by twenty-six years of age.”

The research project studied children who were born in New Zealand between April 1, 1972, and March 31, 1973. The first follow-up assessment came when the child was three years of age. Additional assessments occurred at five, seven, nine, eleven, thirteen, fifteen, eighteen, twenty-one, and twenty-six years of age. (At age twenty-six, researchers assessed the 980 (96 percent) of the 1019 study members who were still alive.)

The complete report is available at http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/159/7/614.

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