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Is your child watching too much TV at day care?

A national survey finds that 89 percent of children in home-based child care settings regularly watch television at day care, an average of 1.5 hours a day.

September 2006 – Although the amount of television that young children watch at home has been well documented, no study until now has examined how much television preschool children watch in day care.


A study by Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, Michelle M. Garrison, MPH and Frederick J. Zimmerman, PhD, published in the October issue of Communication Reports, examines the amount of television viewing in home-based and in center-based child care programs.

Using data from the nationally representative Profile of Child Care Settings study, the authors found that children in 89 percent of home-based child care settings and in 35 percent of center-based child care settings regularly watch television.

In those settings in which children regularly watch television, it is on for an average of about 1 hour per day in center-based care, and for about 1.5 hours per day in home-based settings.

Furthermore, for children in home-based child care settings, approximately 30 percent of the programming is “non-educational.” To put that amount of television viewed into perspective, it is worth noting that prior estimates for children this age based on parental reports of home viewing, were about 1.5 hours a day (Rideout et al., 2003).

Previous estimates may substantially underestimate the total television exposure for many children.

There are reasons to be concerned about television viewing in this context, the authors report. There is some evidence that heavy early television viewing may adversely affect children’s diet, physical activity, aggression and ability to pay attention.

Moreover, early childhood environments represent important opportunities for socialization and for adult-directed learning.

“Given the opportunities for interactions with peers, teachers and other educational activities — which is what is expected of high-quality child care — it is disappointing to determine that passive viewing of a screen is displacing some of this rich stimulation,” said Dr. Christakis.

“While some viewing has proven educational value, it is generally agreed that even the best programs are not the equal of thoughtful adult interactions.”

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