For every minute children watch TV, they are exposed to about three additional minutes of background television – a “startling” total of nearly four hours of background TV on a typical day, researchers said Monday.
The totals are likely to be highest if there’s a television in the child’s bedroom or if the TV is left on when no one is watching, the researchers said in an article in the journal Pediatrics. Their study, they said, is the first nationally representative estimate of exposure to background TV.
Parents have frequently been warned not to let children watch too much television – or the wrong shows. But background television also can negatively affect cognitive function and social skills, the researchers said. Background television is when the TV is on in the vicinity of the child but the child is doing something other than watching it.
To compare, children ages 6 months to 6 years watch about 80 minutes of TV a day.
Matthew Lapierre from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and colleagues from other institutions conducted a national telephone survey in 2009 and used a 24-hour diary to figure out what was going on in the homes. Families with a child ages 8 months to 8 years were included.