TV-watching in kids and teens has already been linked with higher risk for overweight, sleep problems and a taste for junk food. Now, a new University of Pennsylvania study says that leaving the TV on in the background could lead to learning and reading problems in kids ages eight months to eight years old.
Matthew Lapierre, a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, surveyed the parents of 1,450 kids. He found that the kids spent an average of 4 hours a day with the TV on in the background. That's in addition to the 80 minutes of programs they actually watched daily. This study didn't measure kids' reading or learning abilities, but cites other research that has. In one, kids from heavy-TV homes read less and were less likely to be early readers.
Two out of three little kids, ages zero to six, live in a household where the TV's on at least half the time – and in many, it's left on most of the time according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey of 1,000 families. One in four kids under two have a TV in their bedroom, too. So what's wrong with TV as sonic wallpaper? Three things, Lapierre says:
TV's not all bad, of course. Keep the good (like educational shows, fun movie nights with the family, a couple of favorite shows) and get rid of the excess with these smart steps recommended by the Nemours Foundation:
For more information on selecting family-friendly TV shows and the effects of TV and other media on kids and teens, check the Web site of the watchdog group the Parents Television Council.