On average, a child from the age of eight months to eight years in the USA is exposed to almost four hours of background television on a normal day. Younger children and African-American children are exposed to even more background television – on average some five and a half hours a day.
Children from the poorest families are exposed to background television almost six hours each day. Exposure to background television was greater among children from families who had left the television on when no-one was looking and children who had a television in their bedroom.
These are the results of the survey conducted by Jessica Piotrowski at the University of Amsterdam in association with peers from the University of North Carolina and the University of Iowa. Their study, titled ‘Background Television in Homes of US Children’, was published by the professional journal Pediatrics.
The researchers conducted a survey in order to determine children’s daily exposure to background television. More than 1,400 parents took part. They were asked to record their child’s exposure to background television in a 24-hour diary. They were also asked to record relevant media usage, i.e. the number of televisions in their home, the number of televisions in bedrooms and how often the television was on at home.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued a warning about background television, particularly in families with children under the age of two, because background television can damage a child’s brain and consequently the child’s ability to socially interact.
The study corroborates the overall presence of background television in American households with children. According to the researchers, background television can be reduced by taking simple measures, such as turning off the television if no-one is looking at it or by turning it off at certain moments for a child, such as before bedtime and during the evening meal.
Matthew A. Lapierre, Jessica Taylor Piotrowski and Deborah L. Linebarger: ‘Background Television in the Homes of US Children’. Pediatrics 2012, 130:1–8.