Parents, please note! Toddlers who watch television daily for more than two hours may risk diminishing their vocabulary and math skills, a new study has claimed.

Every hourly increase in daily television watching at 29 months of age is also associated with reduced classroom engagement (which is largely determined by attention skills) and physical prowess at kindergarten, according to Professor Linda Pagani of the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine children’s hospital.

“This is the first time ever that a stringently controlled associational birth cohort study has looked at and found a relationship between too much toddler screen time and kindergarten risks for poor motor skills and psychosocial difficulties, like victimisation by classmates,” Pagani said.

“These findings suggest the need for better parental awareness and compliance with existing viewing recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP discourages watching television during infancy and recommends not more than two hours per day beyond age 2. It seems that every extra hour beyond that has a remarkably negative influence,” Pagani said.

The study included 991 girls and 1,006 boys in Quebec, whose parents reported their television viewing behaviour as part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development.

Pagani noted that the standard deviation is a commonly used statistic tool that tells us what is within a normal range compared to the average.

One standard deviation from the average daily amount of television viewed by the toddlers in this sample (105 minutes) was taken as 72 minutes.

Some of the children who participated in the study were two or even three standard deviations away from the average, and their kindergarten indicators were correspondingly worse than those who were one standard deviation away, researchers found.