London - Toddlers who watch a lot of television perform worse at school – and even TV sets left on in the background can be harmful, a leading professor has warned.

Lynne Murray, a professor of developmental psychology at Reading University, said two large-scale reviews from the US made it “absolutely clear” that TV has no benefits for under-twos.

And she said if you look at the research in detail, children who spend a lot of time in front of the screen have poorer vocabulary and perform worse academically – even when other factors such as socio-economic class and parenting are taken into account.

Professor Murray said the respected American Academy of Pediatrics advises against under-twos watching TV at all. Not only are loud, fast-moving programmes difficult for the young mind to follow, they can disrupt play and prevent children interacting with siblings and parents.

Speaking at the launch of her book The Psychology of Babies, the professor said: “If you look at the effect of television just being on in the background and children playing on the floor their focus of attention is likely to be less good.

“However, if you sit down and watch the television alongside your child, if you talk them through what’s happening, that definitely mitigates any negative consequences.”

She added that reading to a child is one of best ways of boosting their brainpower. - Daily Mail