Kids in Home-Based Day Care Watching More TV Than Parents Believe, Study Finds

Filed under: In The News, Childcare, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Research Reveals: Big Kids

baby watching tv

Are kids in day care watching too much TV? Credit: jupiterimages

If you're noticing a strange silence all across the country, it might be caused by millions of parents switching off their televisions.

Word began spreading last week that American kids are spending even more time in Elmo's World than parents thought. Young children in day care, especially those in home-based day care settings, are watching much more television than previously believed, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.

The study found that "children experience considerable additional television viewing in day care settings" and may actually be seeing twice as much television as their parents had assumed. And kids in home-based day care settings see "significantly more television on an average day" than those at day care centers. In home-based care, toddlers averaged 1.6 hours of TV and preschoolers averaged 2.4 hours.

For parents who allow little ones some screen time during mornings and evenings (or use it to occupy the kids while the grownups dress for work or cook dinner), these numbers are eye-opening: Their kids may be watching TV for as much as one-third of their waking hours. Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis, lead researcher for this study, says it's vital for parents to get accurate information from caregivers about TV viewing.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1-2 hours of screen time a day. If they exceed that at day care, then they, at a minimum, should not watch more at home," Christakis tells ParentDish via e-mail.

Previous research into preschool-age children's TV viewing had been based on parental reports of home viewing. Christakis and his associate, Michelle M. Garrison, Ph.D., decided to investigate TV viewing at day care because "given that the majority of preschool-aged children are cared for by someone other than a parent, such reports may underestimate significantly the true amount of young children's screen time," according to the study's introduction.

Surprisingly, the actual numbers may be even higher than this new report suggests: This study was conducted as a telephone survey of licensed childcare programs around the country.

"I would expect that this is a conservative estimate," says Christakis, "since social response bias might lead people to underreport."

Was Christakis surprised by his findings?

"Nothing surprises me any more when it comes to TV usage," he says. "Disappointed, but not surprised."

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.