The Impact of Television on Early Childhood Brain Development

Many parents allow their children to watch television from a very young age. And while many young children do regularly watch TV, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under age 2 should not watch any television at all, and children over age 2 should watch a maximum of just one to two hours per day 1. Even educational television programs can affect the brain. Limiting television exposure may minimize some of its effects on brain development.

Cognitive Development

Although many children's programs contain educational content, exposure to this material does not actually appear to make children smarter. A 2005 study led by F.J. Zimmerman at the University of Washington, titled "Children's Television Viewing and Cognitive Outcomes: A Longitudinal Analysis of National Data," found overall negative cognitive effects among children who regularly viewed television before age 3 2.


Watching a lot of TV as a child, especially when the programming contains violence, can lead to lifelong aggressive behaviors. A 15-year study, led by L. Rowell Huesmann at the University of Michigan, found a significant correlation between viewing TV violence and later aggressive behaviors. The correlation was particularly strong in males.

Less Reading

Reading is an essential skill for children to develop in their early years of education, and according to one study, children who watch a lot of television at a young age are less likely to read. The study, led by E.A. Vandewater at the University of Texas, revealed that one-third of children under age 6 grew up in homes where the television was almost always on. Children from these homes spent less time reading and being read to and were less proficient in reading on their own.