Scientific debate about whether watching television is a good thing or bad thing for children’s cognitive and brain development may be ongoing, but one thing is very, very clear: parents and caretakers are perfectly willing to plop infants and young children in front of the Boob Tube.
A new study from the University of Washington’s Frederick Zimmerman published this month in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine finds that from 40 percent of children under the age of three months watch television regularly, and some 90 percent of children under age of 2 are regular TV watchers.
The phone survey contacted 1,009 English-speaking parents of children aged 2 to 24 months in Washington state and Minnesota; the respondents wre selected randomly from brth certificate records, although responses from parents with children who have major disabilities were excluded from the results.
The study found that the median ag when parents introduce their chidren to regular television is 9 months of age; among television watchers, viewing time increased from 1 hour a day for children under 12 months to more than 1.5 hours a day by for children up to 24 months of age. Parents say they watched television with their children more than half the time.
Parents cited babysitting, entertainment, and educational value as the main reasons for tuning their children into television. Roughly half the programming children watched could be classified as educational; the remainder was split roughly evenly between non-educational childrens’ programing, baby DVDs and videos, and adult television programming.
The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend any television at all for children ages 2 and younger over concerns it may impede childrens’ brain development at a time when learning to talk and interact with other people is especially important. Another study in the same issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that frequent television viewing during adolescents was correlated to a higher risk of attention and learning problems, poor grades, and long term academic failure. Correcting for socioeconomic factors, the study found that children who watched less than one hour of TV a day were twice as likely to go to college as those who watched three or more hours a day.