According to a recent study published in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics, many preschoolers may be watching more television than parents think. In the study, researchers at the University of Washington found that preschoolers are watching television in 70% of home-based daycares and 36% of center-based programs. When looking at the programs that use television, the children watch between 2-3 hours per day at home-based daycares while center-based daycares average 1.5 hours per day.
This information comes on the heels of the October 2009 Nielsen Ratings report that found television viewing among kids to be at an 8-year high. According to this report, average television viewing times for children ages 2-5 years is 32 hours/week. Children ages 6-11 years watch an average of 28 hours/week. This does not include time spent on the computer or playing video games.
Although a few hours of television may seem harmless to some people, parents and caregivers need to be informed about the risks associated with television exposure. First, television watching in the preschool age group distracts from time that should be spent in imaginative play and interactive learning. Also, on a broader scope, excessive television viewing in children has been linked to negative health effects including aggressive behavior, poor academic performance, inattentiveness, and obesity.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should take the following measures to protect their children from the potential negative effects of television:
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- Limit total “media time” (television and video games) to 1-2 hours per day
- Do not place a television in a child’s bedroom
- Discourage TV for children less than age 2
- Monitor shows that children and adolescents are viewing
- Discuss content of the show with your child
- Encourage alternative forms of entertainment
Parents should discuss television viewing with child care providers. For more information on this topic go to www.aap.org.