Young children in the USA, including those aged under two years, "are growing up in a mediasaturated environment with almost universal access to television, and a striking number have television in their bedroom", according to recent research. The study, based on data collected in 2005 from a representative sample of 1,051 parents, was of children aged 0-6 years.
The researchers found that on a typical day, 75% of children watched TV and 32% watched videos or DVDs, for an average of approximately 1 hr 20 min. A substantial number (one-fifth of 0-2 year olds and over one-third of 3-6 year olds) also have a TV in their bedroom. The common reason for this (54%) was to free up other TVs in the house for the rest of the family. Other reasons included to keep children occupied and to send infants to sleep, suggesting that watching TV may be an isolating experience even for very young children. The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) recommends parents to avoid letting the under-twos watch TV but instead to encourage "more interactive activity that will promote proper brain development, such as talking, playing, singing and reading together". For the over-twos the AAP recommends no more than two hours a day of TV viewing.
The overall findings were that though the majority of 3-6 year olds fell within the APP guidelines for time spent watching TV, 70% of 0-2 year olds did not. The findings were not affected by family income, ethnic group and parental education. Knowledge of the effects of TV and electronic media on young children's development is limited. Evidence shows that watching alone may significantly limit the time spent interacting with parents. Other studies warn that TV viewing interferes with toddlers' ability to focus on play and correlates with later problems in concentrating. The effects on sleep patterns of watching TV in the bedroom are unknown. The authors call for further research on this public health topic.Vandewater EA, Rideout VJ, Wartella EA, Huang X, Lee JH, Shim M. Digital childhood: electronic media and technology use among infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.Pediatrics2007; 119(5): e1006-e1015