A new study has discovered that children in the United States are being exposed to nearly four hours of background television each day, HealthDay News and various other media outlets reported earlier this week.
As part of the study, researchers surveyed more than 1,450 English-speaking households with children between the ages of eight months to eight years old. They then looked at various other demographic variables, including gender, ethnicity, race, age, and family income, and discovered that younger children and those of African-American heritage were exposed to the highest rate of background TV noise.
While previous work has shown that children who are frequently exposed to background TV have shown a correlation with poor performance in cognitive and reading-related tasks, the new study by authors Matthew Lapierre, of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, Jessica Piotrowski of the University of Amsterdam, and Deborah Linebarger of the University of Iowa, is the first to provide an accurate assessment of how much television exposure American kids receive, the International Communication Association (ICA) said in a prepared statement.
“Considering the accumulating evidence regarding the impact that background television exposure has on young children, we were rather floored about the sheer scale of children’s exposure with just under 4 hours of exposure each day,” Lapierre said in a statement. “Fortunately, our study does offer specific solutions to reduce exposure in American homes namely- removing televisions from children’s bedrooms and remembering to shut the television off.”
“As evidence begins to grow that background television exposure has negative consequences for young children, we need to take notice of the dramatic levels of American children’s exposure to background television documented by this international team of communication researchers,” added ICA President-Elect and chief conference planner Cynthia Stohl, also a Communications professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “This study should be a warning to parents and daycare providers to shut off the television when no one is watching, and certainly to consider the consequences of having a television in a child’s bedroom no matter how young they may be.”
The complete study will be presented during the ICA’s annual conference, which is scheduled to be held in Phoenix, Arizona between May 24 and May 28.
According to Denise Mann of WebMD Health News, the American Academy of Pediatrics “discourages” allowing children under the age of two to watch television, while recommending that youngsters over the age of two watch no more than one or two hours of “age-appropriate” programming on a daily basis.
University of New Mexico pediatrics professor Victor Strasburger said that parents tend to have the television on for multiple hours at a time in order to keep themselves company, but he says that doing so could interfere with the linguistic development of kids under the age of two. “Babies don’t multitask,” he told Mann, adding that parents should turn off the TV and read to their children instead, “beginning when they are babies.”
Furthermore, the American Association of Child & Adolescent Psychology (AACAP) claims that children who watch too much television tend to read less, exercise less, become overweight, and earn lower grades on their schoolwork. They can also be negatively affected by negative stereotypes and explicit content, so the AACAP recommends that parents not only limit the amount of TV that their sons and daughters watch, but also select appropriate programming and turn off the television during family meals and study time.