Despite several decades of research, there is little consensus on whether childhood television viewing has beneficial, harmful or negligible effects on educational achievement, according to background information in the article. There have been no previous long-term follow-up studies measuring childhood viewing and later educational achievement.
Robert J. Hancox, M.D., of the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, and colleagues conducted a long-term study of approximately 1,000 children born in Dunedin, New Zealand between April 1, 1972 and March 31, 1973. Information about their television viewing habits was collected at ages five, seven, nine, 11, 13 and 15. Information on the highest level of educational attainment was collected for 980 of the study members (96 percent) at 26 years of age. Measures of other variables that might influence educational attainment, including socioeconomic status, IQ and childhood behavioral problems were assessed at several ages. Childhood television viewing was calculated based on viewing hours per weekday reported at ages five to 11. Adolescent viewing was calculated based on weekday reported viewing at 13 and 15 years of age.
"Analysis of educational achievement using both childhood and adolescent viewing as independent variables found that mean weekday viewing hours at 13 and 15 years of age were a stronger predictor of leaving school without qualifications [lowest level of educational achievement]," the authors report. "By contrast, lower mean viewing hours between five and 11 years of age were a stronger predictor of achieving a university degree."