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Background TV Distracts Kids From Play
Date:7/15/2008

It may interfere with the development of attention skills, study suggests

TUESDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- Even if young children aren't watching the TV, it may be distracting them from their play and depriving them of developing critical attention skills, a new study says.

When children aged 3 and younger played in a room with a television on that was tuned to adult programming, they played for about 5 percent less time than when there was no background TV. More importantly, when there was no background TV, the children's play was more focused with longer play episodes, the study found.

"Background TV is a disruptive and distracting influence. Our evidence is that TV keeps the children from sustaining their attention at a time when developmentally, they're beginning to organize their attention skills and sequencing behaviors," said study senior author Daniel Anderson, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

"Parents think it [background TV] doesn't matter because the programs aren't directed at children, but just because a child isn't paying active attention doesn't mean it doesn't have a disruptive effect," he added.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children 2 years old and younger be exposed to no screen time. For older children, the AAP suggests limiting screen time -- including TV, video games and computer use -- to one to two hours a day of active viewing time. Guidelines haven't specifically addressed background TV.

Because many children are exposed to background TV, and the visual and auditory cues on TV change about every six seconds, Anderson and his colleagues wondered if this exposure affects very young children.

The new study, published in the July/August issue of Child Development, included 50 toddlers who were either 12, 24 or 36 months old. Each child was videotaped during hour-long sessions in a
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