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Children in home-based day care watch more TV

November 23, 2009 |  9:17 am

Several studies have been conducted to determine how much television young children are watching. The topic is important because research shows planting a kid in front of the TV for several hours a day does much more harm than good. A new study, published online today in the journal Pediatrics, has found that children in day care are watching twice the amount of television than previously thought.

TV Previous studies on kids' viewing habits did not include data from hours of television watched in child care settings, according to researchers. The new study examined both home-based and child-care settings and found that, with the exception of infants, children in home-based day care programs were exposed to much more TV per day than children in child-care centers: for toddlers, 1.6 hours compared with .1 hour and, for preschool-age children, 2.4 hours versus .4 hour.

The average time of daily TV use for preschool-age children in which television was used at all was 3.4 hours for home-based programs and 1.2 hours in center-based programs. Overall, children watched TV daily in 70% of home-based programs and 36% of center-based programs. The study was conducted among 168 day-care settings, of which 94 were home-based.

These figures reflect little change from surveys conducted in previous years, noted the authors, from the University of Washington. "This lack of change is disconcerting, given the intervening publication of the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines regarding television use for young children," the authors wrote in the paper. They note that infant and toddler TV viewing is linked to increased risks of obesity, language delay, inactivity, aggression and decreased attention spans. The AAP recommends no TV viewing in children ages 2 and younger and, for older children, no more than one to two hours a day of "quality programming."

"Our findings highlight just how pervasive screen time is for very young U.S. children," they wrote.

The AAP policy on children and television viewing can be found here.

— Shari Roan

Photo credit: Alan Marler  /  Associated Press