The immediate impact of different types of television on young children's executive function

Pediatrics. 2011 Oct;128(4):644-9. doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-1919. Epub 2011 Sep 12.


Objective: The goal of this research was to study whether a fast-paced television show immediately influences preschool-aged children's executive function (eg, self-regulation, working memory).

Methods: Sixty 4-year-olds were randomly assigned to watch a fast-paced television cartoon or an educational cartoon or draw for 9 minutes. They were then given 4 tasks tapping executive function, including the classic delay-of-gratification and Tower of Hanoi tasks. Parents completed surveys regarding television viewing and child's attention.

Results: Children who watched the fast-paced television cartoon performed significantly worse on the executive function tasks than children in the other 2 groups when controlling for child attention, age, and television exposure.

Conclusions: Just 9 minutes of viewing a fast-paced television cartoon had immediate negative effects on 4-year-olds' executive function. Parents should be aware that fast-paced television shows could at least temporarily impair young children's executive function.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Child, Preschool
  • Executive Function*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Social Control, Informal
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Television*
  • Time Factors