Television is No Good for Toddlers

Early exposure to TV can have long-term negative consequences.

Parents who want to raise kids who maintain a healthy weight and excel in the classroom should keep them away from the television, according to the results of a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.[1]

The study involved over 1,300 kids who were involved in the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development Main Exposure. The goal was to determine the impact of early television exposure (age 2) on future health and academic success. Parents reported how much television their children watched at ages 29 months and 53 months. Body mass index (BMI) was measured in the kids at age 10 and teachers were asked to evaluate academic, psychosocial, and health habits.

The results indicated that kids who were exposed to TV at age 2 were more likely to have unhealthy habits and academic struggles. Watching too much TV as a toddler forecasted the following consequences:

  • Decreased classroom engagement
  • Decreased math achievement
  • Increased victimization by peers (rejection, teasing, insults)
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Decreased weekend physical activity
  • Increased consumption of junk food
  • Higher BMI

What’s more, these negative consequences persisted for the long-term, leading the researchers to conclude that early TV viewing leads to unhealthy habits in adolescence and beyond. Because TV exposure promotes a sedentary lifestyle, parents would be wise to limit TV for young children to encourage healthy habits for life.

Because the first two years of life are considered a critical time for brain development, it’s important for kids to explore, play, and interact with others for optimal physical and social development. Television and other electronic devices can interfere with this learning process. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no TV for kids under age two and no more than one to two hours of quality programming for kids older than two.

So, do your kids a favor—set them up for a lifetime of success by turning the TV off and promoting lots of healthy play.


[1] Pagani LS, Fitzpatrick C, Barnett TA, et al. Prospective associations between early childhood television exposure and academic, psychosocial, and physical wellbeing by middle childhood. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 2010; 164 (5): 425-431.