Friday, October 20, 2006

TV Really Might Cause Autism

Posted Monday, Oct. 16 on

< Cornell University researchers are reporting what appears to be a statistically significant relationship between autism rates and television watching by children under the age of 3. The researchers studied autism incidence in California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington state. They found that as cable television became common in California and Pennsylvania beginning around 1980, childhood autism rose more in the counties that had cable than in the counties that did not. They further found that in all the Western states, the more time toddlers spent in front of the television, the more likely they were to exhibit symptoms of autism disorders...

...Everyone complains about television in a general way. But if it turns out television has specific harmful medical effects—in addition to these new findings about autism, some studies have linked television viewing by children younger than 3 to the onset of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder—parents may urgently need to know to keep toddlers away from the TV. Television networks and manufacturers of televisions may need to reassess how their products are marketed to the young. Legal liability may come into play. And we live in a society in which bright images on screens are becoming ever more ubiquitous: television, video games, DVD video players, computers, cell phones. If screen images cause harm to brain development in the young, the proliferation of these TV-like devices may bode ill for the future. The aggressive marketing of Teletubbies, Baby Einstein videos, and similar products intended to encourage television watching by toddlers may turn out to have been a nightmarish mistake.

If television viewing by toddlers is a factor in autism, the parents of afflicted children should not reproach themselves, as there was no warning of this risk. Now there is: The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends against any TV for children under the age of 2. Waldman thinks that until more is known about what triggers autism, families with children under the age of 3 should get them away from the television and keep them away. >


  1. Anonymous11:21 AM

    I would hesitate to jump on the bandwagon for the specious claim contained in this research. A huge percentage of children who have been diagnosed as autistic have serious medical problems: for example, inflammatory conditions of the digestive tract occur in a huge percentage of autistic children. Does that mean a study like this is pointing to the fact that tv viewing causes inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract?

  2. Anonymous4:11 PM

    I absolutely agree - this research is a curiosity and will make a great illustration for university research students of how *not* to report correlational research. It doesn't help your argument at all. Some correlational relationships are causal, but some are not - all these statistics show is that as one thing goes up, so does another. The best one can hope for is for it to raise some questions (e.g. indoor air quality mentioned in one of the reports on this research)about things that might be relevant to the triggering of autism. the way...probably has multiple pathways and causes creating the fairly diverse set of symptoms we call 'autism spectrum disorder', so looking for one causative factor is naive. Sue

  3. I do agree, it seems strange to make that kind of conclusions. May be that is why the title say "might" and not "do"?
    What I love about those studies is the fact that they do question TV exposure.
    That is why I posted that one, just for us to think about some new possibilities...