Lower Sustained Attention Seen In Developing Children Exposed To Background TV
October 2, 2012

Lower Sustained Attention Seen In Developing Children Exposed To Background TV

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Even though children may not be watching it, even having a television on in the background may be bad for development, according to a new study.

Researchers wrote in the journal Pediatrics children between eight months and eight-years-old are exposed to nearly four hours worth of background TV a day, compared to the 80 minutes a day of active TV viewing.

The study, which was presented at a meeting of the International Communication Association, says that background television exposure has been linked to lower sustained attention during playtime, lower quality parent-child interactions and reduced performance on cognitive tasks.

Over 1,400 parents were asked questions over the telephone like how often their TV was on when no one was watching, and whether their child had a TV in their bedroom.

The researchers found that in addition to actual TV viewing, children under age 2 and African-American children were exposed to an average of 5.5 hours a day of TV playing in the background. Children from the poorest families were exposed to nearly six hours a day.

Matthew Lapierre, one of the study authors, said the high rate of background TV among very young children may have to do with parents and caregivers leaving the television on even when they are not actively watching.

Heather Kirkorian, an assistant professor of human development and someone who has published studies on background television's impact on children, says that the new study documents what the real-world impact may be, particularly for young children.

While most studies focus on how much time children spend actively watching TV, Deborah Linebarger, an associate professor at the University of Iowa and a co-author of the study, says the background issue may be more of a problem.

“There are about three minutes of background to every one minute of foreground television,” she said in a statement.

The authors said that background noise and the glow of a television left on may interrupt focus and steer attention away from cognitive functioning.

Dr. Wendy Anderson-Willis, a pediatrician at Nationwide Children´s Hospital, told The Columbus Dispatch that families are better off watching television occasionally, "with intention, rather than constantly having it on."

The researchers suggest that parents turn off the TV when no one is watching, as well as during mealtimes and at bedtime. The authors also say to remove TVs from bedrooms, as well, in order to help developing children.