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Scientists have known for a long time that children who are raised in a stimulating environment learn more easily than those who are not. Children need toys to play with, puzzles to solve, and to interact with other people. As children learn new vocabulary and skills, scientists can use imaging techniques to see that their brains change. Neurons form new connections and grow stronger, while other neurons die and are pared away. This is normal brain development that occurs throughout childhood and adolescence. (For a more thorough understanding of what we know about the brain, read The Brain: Our Sense of Self from the National Institutes of Health.)
Scientists have long suspected that watching too much television can have negative effects on children. A new study of children between the ages of 5 and 18 supports this by linking the amount of television children watch each day to brain development. There was a link between the amount of television watched and the amount of brain tissue present in the brain. As children grow and learn, scientist should notice that there are fewer neurons in the brain (with the remaining neurons becoming larger and stronger). There also should be many new connections between the neurons. In this recent study, those who watched the most television had too many neurons! This is evidence that their brains were not developing the same as the children who did not watch television very much.
This study does not prove that television causes the problem. It is possible that the cause of the lack of brain development is that the children are not spending time playing games, going to museums, socializing with others, reading, or solving puzzles. It might not have anything to do with television. But if your teens are spending more time in front of the television than they are doing all the other things adolescents should be doing, then you should take this study seriously.
> What Is "Too Much" When It Comes to Young Children and Consumer Electronics?