Objective: To investigate the association of television viewing with educational and intellectual outcomes during adolescence and early adulthood.
Design: Prospective epidemiological study.
Setting: Families participating in the Children in the Community Study, a prospective longitudinal investigation, were interviewed at mean offspring ages 14, 16, and 22 years.
Participants: A community-based sample of 678 families from upstate New York.
Main exposures: Television viewing, attention difficulties, learning difficulties, and educational achievement during adolescence and early adulthood.
Main outcome measures: The Disorganizing Poverty Interview and age-appropriate versions of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children.
Results: Frequent television viewing during adolescence was associated with elevated risk for subsequent attention and learning difficulties after family characteristics and prior cognitive difficulties were controlled. Youths who watched 1 or more hours of television per day at mean age 14 years were at elevated risk for poor homework completion, negative attitudes toward school, poor grades, and long-term academic failure. Youths who watched 3 or more hours of television per day were the most likely to experience these outcomes. In addition, youths who watched 3 or more hours of television per day were at elevated risk for subsequent attention problems and were the least likely to receive postsecondary education. There was little evidence of bidirectionality in the association of television viewing with attention and learning difficulties.
Conclusion: Frequent television viewing during adolescence may be associated with risk for development of attention problems, learning difficulties, and adverse long-term educational outcomes.