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JAMA and Archives Journals

A TV in the bedroom is associated with lower standardized test scores among third grade students

CHICAGO — In a study of third graders, children with a television in their bedrooms had lower scores on standardized tests while children with access to a home computer had higher scores, researchers report in the July issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

U.S. households with children have an average of 2.8 television sets and 97 percent of those households have at least one video cassette recorder (VCR) or DVD player, according to background information in the article. More than two thirds of households with children have at least one computer and more than half (53 percent) have home Internet access. While substantial evidence exists to show that people who use media more heavily are at greater risk for obesity and aggressive behavior, the relationship between media and academic achievement is less clear, the researchers suggest.

Dina L. G. Borzekowski, Ed.D., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, and Thomas N. Robinson, M.D., M.P.H., of Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., compared students' third grade tests scores on the Stanford Achievement Test (mathematics, reading and language arts sections) in the spring of 2000 with data on television and computer use collected through student surveys and telephone interviews with parents for children in six elementary schools in the fall of 1999 and the spring of 2000. Three hundred forty-eight students completed the survey. The children had an average age of 8.5 years, were ethnically diverse and evenly divided between the sexes (53 percent girls).

The children reported an average of 3.3 television sets per households and almost all had a VCR. Seventy-one percent of the children had a TV set in their own bedroom and 71 percent had access to a home computer. Media environment variables were not significantly associated with the parents' education, students' ethnicity or the primary language spoken in the home. "On average, children with a bedroom television set reported that they watch 12.8 hours per week compared with those without a bedroom television set, who reported 10.7 hours per week," the authors report. "From parents' report, we found that students with home computer access spent, on average, 4.5 hours per week using the computer, compared with those without access who spent 1.0 hours per week."

"Looking at the media environment in spring 2000, students with a bedroom television scored significantly lower on all the tests compared with their peers without bedroom television sets…," the authors write. "Those with home computer access scored higher on all the tests than those without access. … When we simultaneously considered bedroom television and/or home computer access, we observed significant differences for each standardized test. Consistently, those with a bedroom television but no home computer access had, on average, the lowest scores and those with home computer access but no bedroom television had the highest scores."

"Using these models [a statistical model that controlled for parents' educational level, student's sex, students' media use, reading and doing homework], the differences in predicted test scores are quite large," the researchers report. "For example, we observe that the predicted mathematics scores (using students' estimates [of media use]) range from 41 to 58, showing a 17-point difference if a child's household media environment is taken into consideration."

"While this research focuses on academic achievement, we know that media use can influence children in many ways," the authors conclude. "Especially with the media environment converging and becoming more complex, it will be valuable to investigate how specific media delivery systems and content influence children physically, socially, and cognitively."

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Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005; 159:607-613. Available pre-embargo to the media at www.jamamedia.org.) Editor's Note: This study was supported by a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md. and a Generalist Physician Faculty Scholar Award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, N.J.

For more information, contact the JAMA/Archives Media Relations Department at 312-464-JAMA (5262) or email mediarelations@jama-archives.org.



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