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Health & Parenting

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Too Much TV Time in Home Day Care

Children May Get an Extra 2 Hours of TV Viewing in Home Day Care Programs, Researchers Say
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 23, 2009 -- Children in home day care settings may get more TV time than they would in a center-based program, a new study indicates.

The study, published in the Nov. 23 issue of the journal Pediatrics, says kids in home day care settings may watch TV up to two hours more than they would in a licensed day care center. “We found that children in as many as 70% of home-based child care settings and 36% of center-based child care settings watch television daily,” write the researchers, led by Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute at the University of Washington.

The researchers, who surveyed TV viewing information from 168 licensed child care programs in four states, found that among preschoolers, those in home programs watched TV an average of 2.4 hours a day, compared to 0.4 hours in center-based settings. TV time included time spent watching videos or DVDs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV for children less than 2 years old. For children 3 years and older, the recommendation is no more than two hours of media time per day.

The researchers say screen time was less in home-based settings when staff members had college degrees.

The authors conclude that TV viewing in day care could double the total screen time for children when added to the time they spend in front of the tube at home.

According to the study:

  • Toddlers in home-based programs watched 1.6 hours of TV, compared to 0.1 hour for those in centers.
  • Preschool-aged children watched 2.4 hours, vs. 0.4 hours.

Other findings:

  • Center-based programs had an average of 1.84 fewer hours of TV per day, compared to those in homes.

The researchers recommend that pediatricians advise parents to take steps to minimize screen time in child care settings.

The study’s findings are consistent with previous research in terms of number of hours of TV viewing, and the proportion of programs that use TV. The authors describe this as “disconcerting” in light of guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding reduction of television viewing by young children.

Too much time behind a TV screen is associated with obesity, language delay, inactivity, aggression, and decreased attention spans for infants and toddlers, the researchers note. It also means critical socialization and educational opportunities are being lost, the researchers say, not to mention outdoor play time, which is important for high quality child care.

Researchers say the impact of TV time on preschoolers needs more study, and that parents should be encouraged by pediatricians to discuss TV viewing with the people who take care of their children.

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