Another new study has just been released which confirms that children are getting close to 4 hours of background TV noise each day. While many parents are aware of the need to limit their children’s active screen time (which includes TV, video game, telephone texting and computer screens) to no more than 2 hours per day, background TV time may be equally important. The American Academy of Pediatrics also discourages any TV viewing for children under age 2 years. 

The study from The University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication defines background TV as “TV that is on in the vicinity of the child that the child is not attending to”.  The research looked at TV exposure in 1,454 households with children aged 8 months-8 years. The study found that younger children and African-American kids were exposed to more background TV than other children.  Having background TV noise of any kind can disrupt mental tasks for all and may also interfere with language development in younger children. 

Those households that had the least background TV exposure were those that did not have a TV in the child’s room!! That doesn’t seem to be a surprising finding at all. Many parents leave the TV on in a child’s room to help them sleep, although there are numerous studies to show exactly the opposite effect, TV disrupts sleep. I now routinely ask every parent during their child’s check up if there is a TV in the child’s room. I also ask every older child the same question, and there are many teens who are not happy with me when I encourage their parents to take the TV out of the bedroom of their adolescent. There is just no need to have a TV in the bedroom of children of any age.  I have given up on this discussion with my college aged patients! 

While many parents are doing a good job of monitoring what their children are watching on TV, and how long they are watching, we may not be doing as well when it comes to background TV.  While older kids hear news stories or language that they needn’t be exposed to, a younger child’s language skills may be delayed due to background TV noise. 

So, the kitchen TV needn’t be on while you are making your children their breakfast before school or in the evening while eating dinner. Family dinner is one of the most important times of the day and conversation is the key. No one needs to try to talk over the TV, just turn it off! 

Lastly, keep reading those bedtime stories for children of all ages; this is key to language, and appropriate language at that. 

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.