Study: Most Tots Watching TV

Television is part of normal daily life for most U.S. children, starting from a very young age, two new studies show.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children aged 0 to 2 years watch no television.

That rule may not be tuned into reality, according to the two new studies published in Pediatrics and in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Both studies show that most children are watching TV by their second birthday. The studies don't show the long-term effects of toddlers' TV time.

Young Viewers

The Pediatrics study is based on a nationally representative 2005 survey of 1,051 parents of children aged 0 to 6.

The study shows that among kids aged 0 to 2, more than 60 percent watched TV on a typical day; one in five has a TV in his or her bedroom.

"On a typical day, 75 percent of children [aged 0 to 6] watched television and 32 percent watched videos/DVDs, for approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes, on average," write the researchers.

They included Elizabeth Vandewater, PhD, of the Children's Digital Media Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Parents typically said their top reason for putting a TV in kids' bedrooms was to free up other TVs for the rest of the family.

"Children are growing up in a media-saturated environment with almost universal access to television, and a striking number have a television in their bedroom," write Vandewater and colleagues.

When Does TV Time Start?

The study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine included about 1,000 parents of children aged 0 to 2 in Washington and Minnesota.

"By 3 months of age, about 40 percent of children regularly watched television, DVDs, or videos. By 24 months, this proportion rose to 90 percent," write the researchers.

They included Frederick Zimmerman, PhD, of the University of Washington's Child Health Institute.

Among kids who watched TV, videos, or DVDs, the average viewing time was one daily hour in their first year of life and more than 1.5 daily hours by their second birthday.

Most parents said their kids watched children's educational programming.

"Parents are clearly hungry for truly educational content for children younger than 2 years," Zimmerman's team writes.

"More research is urgently required to determine whether it is realistic to produce genuinely educational content for children younger than 2 years, and if so, what it should be," they write.

This article was reviewed by Louise Chang, MD.

SOURCES: Vandewater, E. Pediatrics, May 2007; vol 119: pp e1006-e1015. Zimmerman, F. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, May 2007; vol 161: pp 473-479. News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.