New Research: Excessive TV Viewing Can Harm Kids and Adults

Pew Research Center
(Image credit: Pew Research Center)

OKAYAMA, Japan & NEW YORK CITY—Several new research studies suggest that excessive TV viewing can have adverse effects on both young children and older adults. 

A study in the Japanese Journal of Ophthalmology from researchers at Okayama University found that long hours in front of the television in children under 3 years of age produced increased eyesight concerns during later years.

Anecdotal evidence has long suggested that prolonged viewing of television and use of smart gadgets during early years can adversely affect a child's eyesight and behavioral development. 

The Okayama University study goes beyond that by providing scientific evidence based on a large Japanese government database covering 47,015 eligible children. They found that if children had high television exposure at the ages of 1.5 years or 2.5 years, parents showed significant concerns around their children's eyesight in later years. 

These results were consistent for children of both sexes and did not change based on such factors as a residential area or parents' education. 

The researchers also re-analyzed the responses of a smaller pool of participants—those who participated in all surveys conducted when the children were between 7 to 12 years of age—and found they confirmed the primary findings. 

"This nationwide population-based longitudinal study is the first to demonstrate that television-watching only in the earlier years of life, but not in the later years, leads to the later consequence of visual acuity problems at elementary school age," concluded Professor Matsuo Toshihiko and Professor Yorifuji Takashi in a statement. 

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Separately, HealthDay reported that three studies presented on May 21 at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Conference found that “middle-aged folks who regularly turn to TV for entertainment appear to have a greater risk of decline in their reasoning and memory later in life.”  

"I don't think it's necessarily the act of watching TV itself that is bad for brain health, but that it may potentially be a proxy measure of sedentary behavior," Priya Palta, an assistant professor of medical sciences and epidemiology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City told Health Day. She is the lead researcher for one of the studies.

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George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.