TV burp: all telly and no play a dull deal for children

Watching for more than three hours leads to ‘emotional and behavioural’ problems

 About 11 per cent of Irish three-year-olds watch more than three hours of television a day. Photographer: Dara MacDónaill/The Irish Times

About 11 per cent of Irish three-year-olds watch more than three hours of television a day. Photographer: Dara MacDónaill/The Irish Times

 

Young children who watch more than three hours of television a day are at significantly greater risk of having emotional and behavioural issues, according to new research.

Some 11 per cent of Irish three-year-olds watch more than three hours of television a day, though behavioural psychologists recommend that children of that age should watch no more than two hours a day. A total of 16 per cent of Irish three-year-olds have a television or electronic device in their bedroom.

The research was carried out by Suzanne Egan from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick and Aisling Murray of the Economic and Social Research Institute. It is based on the Growing Up in Ireland Longitudinal Study of Children.

They found that too much television leads to behavioural problems, hyperactivity/inattention, emotional behaviour and difficulties relating to their peers.

The problems persist even after taking other significant factors such as the economic background or education of the parents into account.

The researchers found the average amount of time that Irish three-year-olds spent in front of the television is 112 minutes, while 27 per cent watched TV for more than two hours.

Ms Murray described the difference between the behaviour of children who watch more than three hours of television a day and does that do not as “small but significant”.

“Three hours out of a young child’s day is a lot considering the time they go to bed,” said Ms Murray. She advised that screen time for children is something that parents can easily control.