According to new research which in many respects runs contrary to currently held beliefs it does not appear that children who watch a lot of television necessarily have behavior problems in school.
The researchers from Texas Tech University in Lubbock say in a report that there is no meaningful relationship between television exposure and symptoms of attention-deficit /hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The researchers based their findings on an evaluation of data from a survey of parents and teachers of 5,000 U.S. children over a two-year period, in order to determine if television viewing habits during the kindergarten year resulted in ADHD in first grade.
The authors Tara Stevens and Miriam Mulsow say the results do not indicate the presence of an important relationship between television exposure and subsequent attention problems.
The authors acknowledge their finding conflicts with a previous study in 2004 and say that may possibly be because of differences in methodology.
In the earlier study, which used a different database, it was found each hour of TV watched during ages 1 to 3 increased the risk of attention problems by 10 percent at age 7.
But the new study points out that ADHD, although identified by other names, has been recognized as a disorder of childhood well before children had television to watch.
The researchers say that earlier studies have found no support for the idea that parenting causes the disorder, although environmental factors around the time of birth have been linked in some studies, as has exposure to environmental toxins.
The study says researchers have learned that much of child development is reciprocal, with characteristics of a child influencing the way that child is parented in addition to parenting influencing characteristics of a child.
So it may be they say, that the exhausted parents of very active and inattentive children resort to using the television as a 'babysitter' more commonly than do parents of less active and more attentive children.
They suggest in conclusion, that the relationship between early television viewing and later attention problems may be linked to child temperament as much as or more than television causing children to be inattentive.
The study is published in the March issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.