Kids are watching 4 hours of background television a day, says study
Adults may think they’ve mastered the art of tuning out the television set during dinner or while doing the dishes, but new research shows that children are exposed to more background television than ever before, thanks to their parents’ casual television consumption habits.
Research asked approximately 1,454 American parents how much background television their children ages 8 months through 8 years old were exposed to. They found that the average American child is exposed to 232.2 minutes – close to a whopping four hours – of background television a day. Children under age two and African-American children were exposed to more background television – 42 percent and 45 percent respectively, than the average child.
Latino children were included in the study to be presented at the International Community Association’s annual conference next month, but study authors did not examine ethnic groups separately. Background television – defined as the amount of indirect exposure a child experiences while engaged in another activity – has long been the subject of debate by academics, who argue that its effects can be linked to lower sustained attention, lower-quality interactions and reduced cognitive performance.
“We expected background exposure to be high, but we were definitely surprised to find that on average, children under eight years old were exposed to four hours of background television as opposed to just one hour of foreground television,” said study author Matthew Lapierre, a doctoral candidate and lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. “And we definitely think that it’s probably due to a few straight-forward habits that parents can try to change.”
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