"A lot of home-based day care programs are using a lot of 'screen time'," Christakis said, noting that many prior studies of TV viewing time rely on parent reports of home viewing and don't ask about day-care viewing time.
The researchers did not ask specifics about the content of the program. "No doubt some is educational," Christakis said. "But it really doesn't matter. Even the best educational program is no substitute for real, live human interaction."
His advice? "Parents should make a point of inquiring how much time the television is on "when searching for day care or with their current arrangement."
And, he said, if there is too much television viewing at day care, parents can adjust downward the TV time at home. He cites the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggesting no TV for the first two years and a daily limit of one to two hours for older children. Less than that is even better, Christakis said.
The findings don't surprise David Bickham, a research scientist at the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital Boston and an instructor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. "I think it's an important study," he said, agreeing that researchers often overlook TV time in day-care settings.
''I do think they have touched on something unique here that is very important," Bickham said. While TV can be educational, Bickham suspects that at day care, television is "often used as a way to fill the time."
The message on this is clear, Bickham and Christakis agreed. "Parents need to go and talk to their day-care center and find out what is going on with media use," Bickham said.
When shopping for day care, parents may want to ask about the director's educational background, the findings suggest. In home-based programs in which the director had a two
All rights reserved