According to new research published this fall in the journal Pediatrics, young children enrolled in out-of-home care may be spending over 30% of the time they are awake each day watching television. The study (the first in more than two decades to examine television watching in the child care setting) suggests that television viewing patterns vary significantly by type of child care setting- about 70% of family-based child care programs reported daily television watching, while 36% of center-based child care programs reported daily television viewing.
Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle and a researcher at the University of Washington, surveyed 168 licensed daycare programs in four different states. The results suggest that among preschool-aged children, those in family-based day care programs watched television for 2.4 hours per day on average, compared to 24 minutes in larger centers. Only family-based providers conceded to placing infants (less than 12 months of age) in front of the television, for an average of about 12 minutes per day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any television watching of any kind during the first 24 months of life and advises a daily restriction of 60 to 120 minutes of superior programming for older children. Young children attend child care programs in order to foster social abilities, cultivate cognitive skills and partake in creative play, as well as allowing parents to work. According to Christakis, “It’s not what parents have signed up for. I’m not sure how many parents are aware of this…We know what is good for children and we know what’s not. High quality preschool can make a very, very positive difference. We’re so far from meeting that, that we really have a lot of work to do…It’s alarming to find that so many children in the United States are watching essentially twice as much television as we previously thought.”
Other studies have linked extreme television watching during early childhood with language problems, weight issues, attention difficulties and hostile behavior. (See Television Viewing Associated With Increased Combative Behavior In Young Children ). Christakis suggests that one of the primary issues with television watching for young children is that it replaces time that could possibly be spent running in the backyard, reading a story, playing with toys and interacting with adults and peers- all behaviors and activities that promote optimal cognitive, social and emotional development during the first years of life.
For more information on the well-being of young children in Memphis and Shelby County, please visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/.
Blankinship, D.G. (2009, November 23). Study: Kids watching hours of TV at home daycare. Associated Press: Yahoo! News.