Watching TV May Damage Children's Brains

Watching TV May Damage Children's Brains
Japanese researchers have found that watching too much television alters the structure of a child's brain in a negative way.

And the more TV the child watches, the more fundamental the changes are. 276 children between 5 and 18 were looked at - an even split of girls and boys. They all watched between zero and 4 hours of TV every day - the average amount of TV watched was 2 hours.

In MRI brain scans of the children who watched the most TV, there was more grey matter in areas around the frontopolar cortex - the area at the front of the frontal lobe. This increased volume was not a good thing, however, as it was linked with lower verbal intelligence. The scientists, from Tohoku University, said that grey matter could be compared to body weight and said these brain areas need to be pruned during childhood in order to work best. Children with the highest IQs showed the most cortical thinning in this area. They said that as programmes we watch on TV ‘do not necessarily advance to a higher level, speed up or vary’ then there is less of an effect on cognitive functioning,’ they wrote.

The authors of the report concluded that:
'......TV viewing is directly or indirectly associated with the neurocognitive development of children ..... At least some of the observed associations are not beneficial and guardians of children should consider these effects when children view TV for long periods of time.’

The findings highlighted an association between watching TV and changes in the brain but do not prove conclusively that TV alone caused the changes. It could be that by watching lots of TV, the children were missing out reading, playing sports or interacting with people!

January 2014

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