t, including mother's age, education, household income, marital status, parity, and postpartum depression, and the child's gender, race, birth weight, body mass index, and sleep habits. Using linear regression models, the researchers equalized the influences of each of these factors and calculated the independent effects of TV viewing on the cognitive development of infants. Once these influences were factored out, associations in the raw data between increased infant TV viewing and poorer cognitive outcomes disappeared.
"In this study, TV viewing in itself did not have measurable effects on cognition," adds Schmidt. "TV viewing is perhaps best viewed as a marker for a host of other environmental and familial influences, which may themselves be detrimental to cognitive development."
While the study showed that increased infant TV exposure is of no benefit to cognitive development, it was also found to be of no detriment. The overall effects of increased TV viewing time were neutral. TV and video content was not measured, however, only the amount of time exposed. The researchers acknowledge follow-up studies need to be done, and they are quick to warn parents and pediatricians that the body of research evidence suggests TV viewing under the age of 2 does more harm than good.
"TV exposure in infants has been associated with increased risk of obesity, attention problems, and decreased sleep quality," adds Michael Rich, MD, MPH, the pediatrician who directs the Center on Media and Child Health and contributing author on this study and the current AAP Guidelines. "Parents need to understand that infants and toddlers do not learn or benefit in any way from viewing TV at an early age."
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