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The social stratification of early TV consumption and children's cognitive, language and behavioral development

Kühhirt, Michael and Klein, Markus (2018) The social stratification of early TV consumption and children's cognitive, language and behavioral development. Working paper. The Institute for Social Science Research, University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia.

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Abstract

The association between children’s TV consumption and their development is subject of controversial scientific and public debate. Heavy TV consumption may be detrimental to children as flashing lights, quick edits and scene changes are overstimulating to developing brains. It may also involve less time children spent on more stimulating activities and interactions with their parents. In the present analysis, we use data from the 2004/5 birth cohort of the Growing Up in Scotland study and investigate the relationship between weekly hours of TV consumption – measured at the ages 2 to 4 and cumulatively – and children’s language, cognitive and behavioral outcomes at age 5. Our analysis shows a gap in TV consumption by parental education that grows across early childhood. However, we did not find any substantive association between TV consumption and children’s inductive reasoning and expressive language ability. There were small associations between TV consumption and conduct problems and prosocial behavior, particularly for children with lower educated parents. Nonetheless, these results suggest that the impact of TV consumption on children’s development is less pronounced than often assumed.