No responsible parent would consciously try to expose their children to excessive amounts of TV. In fact, I think it is fair to say that many parents might very well wish that their kids would spend their time doing something else, like reading a book or playing outside. Now, it seems, that there may be even more reason for us all to steer our kids away from the screen.

A new study has found that when toddlers watch too much TV, it potentially predisposes them to a myriad of problems later in life, from difficulties in school to numerous unhealthy lifestyle habits. The findings, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, lend further insight into the negative effects that too much TV can have on children and support the recommendation for limiting time spent in front of the “tube.”

Researchers set out to find what influence TV may have on a young child later in life, taking into account its effect on school performance, lifestyle choices, and overall well-being. To arrive at their findings, researchers looked at over 1,300 children. Caregivers were asked to monitor how much TV the children watched at and report the numbers at 29 months and 53 months of age. In conjunction, teachers were asked to report on the children’s academic, social and health-related habits. Body mass index readings were taken at age 10.

For children between the ages of 2 and 4 years, even incremental increases in TV exposure was tied to developmental delays. The take-home message: Television exposure at an early age can have negative consequences on many aspects of later life. In fact, every additional hour of viewing was linked to a lower level of classroom engagement and performance in certain subjects, a more sedentary lifestyle, and a poor diet. From these habits, certain consequences can arise, including weight gain and obesity, as well as the social marginalization and victimization that can stem from these conditions.

The authors went to say that because of the impact on a child’s health, TV viewing should be considered a public health issue that can result in an unhealthy lifestyle. Parents may want to consider curbing their children’s viewing time, or better yet, eliminating it altogether. You may have to set an appropriate example by curtailing your own viewing, at least when your children are around. The good news: You can end up with healthier habits as well.

At an early age, children are in a vital period of brain development which profoundly influences their behavior. Excessive television viewing is believed to have a detrimental effect on behavior and may encourage unhealthy habits. As a result, experts strongly recommend that young children watch no more than two hours of TV each day.

If you have questions or concerns about your kid’s TV habits, speak with your pediatrician. For more information about ideas to reduce your children’s time in front of the TV, visit the website for the American Academy of Pediatrics.