Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How much T.V. time is too much?

Do you let your toddlers watch T.V.? I don't necessarily limit the T.V. with my 16-month-old, but he could care less about the television. His big brother is WAY more interesting. However, I never realized that just having it on could have a big impact on him. I do try and turn it off when I realize it's on and no one is watching it, but sometimes I am sure I just ignore it and don't even realize it's on.

Here's the story from ABC News:

People do it every day -- pay bills online, fold laundry or do homework to the soothing sound of a spinning wheel, the drone of the evening news or the canned laughter of a rerun.

A new study found that having television on around young children distracts them from playing, even when they are not watching it, and can inhibit learning. Just because you've learned to tune out the television doesn't mean infants and toddlers can, according to a new study in the Journal Childhood Development. According to the study, that background adult television might be a harmful distraction.

Researchers observed 50 kids aged 1 to 3 at play in a room for an hour: half the time was television-free, and half the time the TV show "Jeopardy" was playing on a television in the room. Although the children in the room while the TV was on glanced up only occasionally, the researchers saw clear signs that the children had trouble concentrating.

"It's not something that you would really notice from just watching the child," says Daniel Anderson, a co-author of the study and a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts. "I really didn't know if children could just focus on their activity and shut out the background noise."

During the television-free time, Anderson and his colleagues observed standard psychological testing signs that the toddlers were focused and learning. "The child gets an intent look on their face, they lean into the toy, their extraneous body movements decrease," Anderson says. "When they're in that state, they're much more likely to be learning."

But when "Jeopardy" came on, Anderson and his colleagues saw different behavior. The children played for half as long as they played without background television, and they were visibly less calm. "You actually can see sometimes more aimless behavior, walking around like they're not quite sure what they're going to do next," Anderson says.

The gulf is great between what pediatricians recommend for television watching and what children are exposed to in the home. According to a 2003 study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, two-thirds of children under 6 live in homes where the television is on half the time, and one-third of children live in homes where the television is left on "always" or "most of the time."

But the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends zero hours in front of the television for infants and toddlers under age 3. The average child under age 6 watches two hours a day. Even pediatricians aren't sure what this gap will mean for childhood development.

How much television do your kid's watch? Do you have set rules about the T.V.?

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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C. J. Summers said...

We just have one TV in the house -- in the basement -- and it's only on when the kids are watching TV. We never use it for "background noise." If the kids aren't watching TV, the TV is off and they're doing something else -- playing upstairs in their rooms or (when there's good weather) outside.

This comment is proudly sponsored by The Peoria Chronicle." said...

And when you do have the T.V. on, you only watch WHOI I bet, right? JK! Thanks for the comment and the blog post on Peoria Chronicle!

Maria said...

This is a frustration in our house. I do not like the TV on and will take the boy outside to play or we will color or something. Hubby likes the noise or something and ALWAYS has the TV on and it drives me nuts. Basically, I allow The Boy to watch about 1 hour/week plus any sporting event I want to watch (haha). Hubby allows MUCH more than I do, so it depends on who is home. said...

We have the same thing going on at our house. My husband and my babysitter both like to have the T.V. on in the background. So, I try to pick my battles, but having it on constantly is not my favorite thing!

SallyN said...

Husband and I fell into the category of having the TV on often for background noise.

I did pretty well in keeping it off for a while, but Daughter and I are currently struggling with it. She has a favorite show, and a favorite movie, and will beg, beg, beg to have them on. Once the tv is on, she doesn't really pay much attention. So lately I've been 'lazy' and give in to the begging. But I AM noticing that she doesn't have much attention span for play. 'Course, I'm also not entirely sure of what a reasonable attention span for a 20 month old is... haven't gotten that far in my parenting research. :)

Right now, we have two 'hot times'... in the morning, when she wakes up too early, I'm too tired, and need to eat breakfast/coffee. And in the afternoon, when she hasn't napped well, I'm worn out and counting the minutes until Daddy gets home. Hopefully, eventually we'll get that down to one period a day. And then get that period shorter and shorter.

(Though, on the flip side, she's learning a lot about different animals, and how to count in Spanish. (Her show of choice is Go, Diego, Go.)) said...

I really know about the "when they wake up too early" problem. My almot five-year-old does get to watch T.V. every morning. I try to make him eat breakfast first, but sometimes it's "here's a banana, here's the Disney channel, I'm going back to bed!"

Tim said...

We allow our 2&1/2 year old to watch T.V. But we try to limit it to an hour a day, max. However we do keep the T.V. on in the background, especially around news time (sometimes I think it's the only way he can spend time with his dad). And lately he's been noticing when certain commercials come on, particularly that one for free credit reports. That's the most disturbing thing to me, how vulnerable our kids are to marketing.

Jenny said...

I admit that I am a TV junky. Our TV is usually on (sometimes even while I work since I work from home). However, that doesn't mean that my kids 'pay attention' to it the whole time it is on. I have a 4 yr old and almost 1 year old. They don't just sit back and watch. The 4 year old is used to it and so she just goes about her business and plays.

Even now, she will only watch if it is one of her 'shows' .. like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, etc. But even then, she will wonder in and out between playing. She also plays in her room, in the playroom and outside.

I grew up watching TV (my mom worked so I was home alone for awhile after school, etc.) and I don't think it had a negative impact on me. I also played w/ my friends, swam, went outside, etc.

I just think it depends on the kids ... I don't 'limit' her because she doesn't want to watch it most of the time. I do limit if she has watched a few cartoons and then later wants to watch more .. but that happens unfrequently.

Shannon said...

I always used to be a big "TV for background noise" kind of person. Maybe because I was an only child and alone quite a bit? Hmmm..

In any case, I wound up with a career in TV. Coincidence? LOL!

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