Several studies have found evidence that too much television is bad for the development of children, even when it is only on in the background.
A new study in The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has tracked just how much background TV American children are exposed to. The results are a startling 232.2 minutes, or 4 hours, every day.
Unfortunately, children who are African-American, younger or from low-income families are absorbing the most background television.
Children living in single-parent households and those with parents having less formal education were exposed to much more background television. African American and younger children were found to get, on average, 5.5 hours per day, and children from poor families nearly 6.
The report also cites that children from these groups are typically at risk for other “social and cognitive problems” such as “struggle with self-regulation and have higher rates of obesity.”
The study used a national phone survey asking 1,454 parents with at least one child between 8 months and 8 years of age. Parents were asked questions such as: “whether the child had a television in his/her bedroom (0, no; 1, yes), number of televisions in the home, and how often the television is on even when no one was watching it (0, never; 5, always).”
Background television exposure has been “linked to lower sustained attention during playtime, lower quality parent-child interactions, and reduced performance on cognitive tasks.” Even though more research has been put into the effects of foreground television, USA Today reports:
“Heather Kirkorian, an assistant professor of human development and family studies a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has published studies on background television’s impact on both parent-child interaction and children’s play patterns, says “until now we could only guess at the extent of the impact in children’s day-to-day lives.” The new study “documents just how great the real-world impact may be, particularly for very young children.”
What the study does show is how pervasive television has become in the lives of Americans. The results hope to bring awareness to the relationships of adults with television and the effects on children within the home.
AAP suggests children under the age of 2 years not be exposed to any television at all. And in order to reduce background television, turn off the television at key points of the day such as bed time and mealtime, and also when no one is watching.