You don't have to be an expert to have an idea that sitting in front of a television all day long isn't the best thing for a kid's intellectual and social development. But what about when the TV is just on, as a family goes about its daily business?
It turns out, there's research suggesting that what's known as "background television exposure" presents its share of issues, too. Specifically, it's linked to "lower sustained attention during playtime, lower quality parent-child interactions, and reduced performance on cognitive tasks." Not things any mom or dad would want for a child, obviously.
According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, black kids are getting much more than their fair share of the negative influence, with an average of 5.5 hours per day (compared with an overall average of four hours), USA Today reports. That's the bad news. The good news is that this is one area of racial disparity whose solution is as simple as the "off" button on a remote:
Among questions that parents were asked: how often their TV was on when no one was watching; whether their child had a TV in their bedroom and the number of TVs in the home.
It found that in addition to actual TV viewing, children under age 2 and African-American children were exposed to an average of 5.5 hours a day of a TV playing in the background; children from the poorest families were exposed to nearly 6 hours per day.
The finding among African-Americans "wasn't unexpected," says Lapierre noting that statistically, their households "are often found to be more TV-centric," compared with other groups, with more TVs per household and more of those TVs in bedrooms.
To reduce background TV exposure, the study recommends turning off the TV when no one is watching and at key points during a child's day, such as bedtime and mealtime.
Read the full study here.