19 April 2012

Background TV Affects Cognitive And Reading Skills Of Children

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages children before the age of 2 in watching television. The first two years is a critical time for development such as language acquisition. A child's brain triples in size during the first two years of life.

Aside from watching TV, even background TV may be detrimental to a child's mental development.

Background TV is a term used when the television is on without anyone actively watching. For children, background TV may mean that they are present near a television not watching the program being shown but doing something else.

Parents often watch a television show while a child plays nearby. Studies show that background TV affects the child as he or she plays with toys, even if they don't seem to be interested in the program. It reports that having the television on in the background can disrupt toddlers as they play with toys, causing them to lose focus during play which may lead to learning problems as they grow up.

American children exposed to high amounts of harmful background TV.

Children from the age of 8 months to 8 years are exposed to nearly 4 hours of background TV per day, according to a top paper to be presented at the International Communication Association's annual conference (Phoenix, AZ, May 24-28).

The study surveyed 1,454 English-speaking households with children between the ages of 8 months to 8-years-old. Younger children and African-American children were exposed to higher amounts of background TV. Models were included to explore whether demographic variables including child gender, ethnicity, race, age, and/or family income are associated with different levels of background TV. The report states that the rates are higher in minority households.

Previous research has shown that children with high exposure to background TV have been linked to poor performance in cognitive and reading tasks.

Video: Television and Children

Authors Matthew Lapierre, of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, Jessica Piotrowski, Universiteit van Amsterdam, and Deborah Linebarger, University of Iowa, are the first to provide accurate estimates of background TV exposure to children.

"Considering the accumulating evidence regarding the impact that background television exposure has on young children, we were rather floored about the sheer scale of children's exposure with just under 4 hours of exposure each day," Lapierre said. "Fortunately, our study does offer specific solutions to reduce exposure in American homes namely- removing televisions from children's bedrooms and remembering to shut the television off."

ICA President-Elect and chief conference planner Cynthia Stohl (Professor of Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara) added, "As evidence begins to grow that background television exposure has negative consequences for young children, we need to take notice of the dramatic levels of American children's exposure to background television documented by this international team of communication researchers. This study should be a warning to parents and daycare providers to shut off the television when no one is watching, and certainly to consider the consequences of having a television in a child's bedroom no matter how young they may be."


International Communication Association
American Academy of Pediatrics
Annenberg School for Communication
Universiteit of Amsterdam
University of Iowa
US Department of Education
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
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