Increased television viewing linked to language delay in toddlers

Television is one of the most commonly-viewed forms of media throughout the world. The ever-increasing popularity of television has made it a common feature in nearly every home. Recently, researchers have begun to look at how television may be beneficial or detrimental.

Considering that childhood is a time of rapid learning and development, children may be especially impacted by watching television. However, research on the exact benefits and consequences of children’s television viewing has been inconclusive. One possibility is that educational programming may be a more convenient and modern way to help boost children’s learning and development. Various companies have begun marketing video products toward families with young children, advertising their product as learning-focused.

However, another possibility exists: while watching TV, children may be missing out on important opportunities for learning and development. Could watching television really be harming children’s development? Recent research published in PLoS One suggests this may be the case.

Over 1,700 Korean toddlers participated in this study, and each child’s language development and television viewing was examined. The researchers also accounted for other factors that may influence children’s language development, including their primary caregiver, household income, size of home city. Information was collected about the parents as well, including their educational level, employment, marital satisfaction, and communication patterns with their child.

The researchers found that television had a negative impact on their language development. More specifically, the amount of time children spent watching TV was directly related to their language development—children who watched more television had decreased language development.

On average, children in this study spent 1.21 hours watching television per day. However, children who watched more than two hours of television per day were three times more likely to have a language delay than those who watched less than one hour.

While these results cannot tell us whether television watching causes language delays, these findings add to the continually growing evidence supporting the idea that television is detrimental to child development. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under age two watch no more than two hours of television per day.

These findings are especially important for toddlers, the authors point out, since toddlerhood is a very important period of language development for children. Instead, parents should seek out other ways to help facilitate children’s language development. “Caregivers must provide children with communication opportunities other than TV watching, such as book reading or play,” the authors suggest.


  1. Avatar

    Instead of blaming television, wouldn’t it be logical to see that the problem lies with the type of parent who would let their child watch more than 2 hours of television each day?

    That’s a lot of time not spent with one’s child in a home environment.

    • Avatar
      blastedcomputer on

      Might it be more logical to see that the problem might with be both television and bad parenting?

  2. Avatar

    The recommendation is for older children and AAP says the following on their site: “Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2.”

  3. Avatar

    overall, that might be accurate, however, I lived to watch tv and at 4 years old, read, but still watched far more than I read, and I consistently test in the 99th or 98th percentile in English. No college, some college prep courses in hs… I just think people who park their kids in front of TVs tend to not be that bright, and hence so are their offspring.