NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Think you know how much television your child is watching while you’re at work? If you’re not taking the time they spend in child care into account, you may be way off, according to a U.S. study.
Researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle found that on average children at center-based programs watch an average of about 0.4 hours of television a day, while those in home-based programs watch 2.4 hours a day.
These were the findings of a telephone survey of 168 child care programs in Michigan, Washington, Florida and Massachusetts conducted by Dimitri Christakis and Michelle Garrison with the study published in the journal Pediatrics.
“For some children, (child care) doubles their screen time,” Christakis told Reuters Health.
Previous studies based on parents’ reports of their children’s TV watching have estimated that at home, children watch up to two-and-a-half hours of television a day.
That means some children are watching 5 hours of television a day, according to Christakis - nearly half of their waking hours.
Of the amount of time children in day care spend in front of the television, Christakis said: “I don’t think most parents are aware.”
The researchers said that regardless of what children are viewing, studies have shown that watching television can slow language development, shorten attention span, decrease cognitive development, and contribute to obesity.
Televisions are common in a childcare setting with 70 percent of home-based programs in the study using televisions with preschoolers, and 36 percent of center-based programs.
Christakis told Reuters Health that in 1970, on average, children began watching TV at four years of age, and watched less than one hour a day. Today, children begin watching at four months of age, and may be watching up to four to five hours a day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children over two years of age watch no more than two hours of television daily.
Reporting by Laura Buchholz of Reuters Health, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith