Even though children may not be watching it, even having a television on in the background may be bad for development, according to a new study.
Researchers wrote in the journal Pediatrics children between eight months and eight-years-old are exposed to nearly four hours worth of background TV a day, compared to the 80 minutes a day of active TV viewing.
The study, which was presented at a meeting of the International Communication Association, says that background television exposure has been linked to lower sustained attention during playtime, lower quality parent-child interactions and reduced performance on cognitive tasks.
Over 1,400 parents were asked questions over the telephone like how often their TV was on when no one was watching, and whether their child had a TV in their bedroom.
The researchers found that in addition to actual TV viewing, children under age 2 and African-American children were exposed to an average of 5.5 hours a day of TV playing in the background. Children from the poorest families were exposed to nearly six hours a day.