Is “Background TV” affecting our kids?

We have all heard of the potential negative effects of our children watching too much TV, but the latest research shows that even when your TV is on in the background, it can affect development. This research demonstrates that many kids are exposed to television – even when they’re not actively viewing it.

This is the first study of its kind, published in the journal Pediatrics, by Matthew Lapierre, an assistant professor of Communications Studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and his colleagues. Its main goal is to quantify how much TV children are exposed to on an average day. 

While several previous studies have focused on the effects of direct TV viewing on children’s behaviour and development, Lapierre’s was the first to investigate what might be considered “secondhand” TV exposure, defined as any exposure to television that the child is not actually watching. 

In the survey of 1,454 parents with at least one child between the ages of 8 months and 8 years, the scientists found that children were subjected to nearly four hours of background TV a day. Parents answered questionnaires about the activities of their children in a 24-hour period, and were asked about whether a television was on during any of these activities. On average, background exposure amounted to 232.3 minutes a day, with exposure being greatest for younger children.

There were a few significant patterns in the responses:

  • Kids living in single-parent homes were exposed to more background TV than those in two-parent households
  • Children in the poorest households were exposed to the most background TV

Infants and toddlers were exposed to more background TV – 5 1/2 hours compared to 2 3/4 for kids 6-8.  

(Source: )