Study Shows Preschoolers Watch Too Much TV

Is the boob tube your child's best friend? Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that preschool-age children watch no more than two hours of TV a day, a recent study shows that many children exceed this limit.

According to researchers at the Seattle Children's Research Institute and the University of Washington, 66 percent of the 8,950 children the team studied watched more TV than the recommended limit. This study was based on data that included children 5 and younger between 2001 and 2006. As a result, the results are already dated—they do not include time spent watching or playing video games or being on a computer. They also exclude any time spent watching video on a cell phone.  On average, children from the study watched 4.1 hours each weekday.

So why are kids watching so much TV? The study shows that it's not the fault of large child care centers. In fact, the highest screen exposure came from the group of children who attended in-home based childcare. This group watched an average of 5.6 hours of TV each day. Kids who attend center-based childcare watched approximately 3.2 hours a day between home and child care.

"The biggest message from this study is that parents need to be aware of all the settings where their children are spending time," says lead author Dr. Pooja Tandon at the Seattle Children's Research Institute. "This study didn't look at outcomes for these children, but other studies have shown that increased screen time beyond one to two hours a day is associated with higher risks of various problems, so the fact that a national estimate shows that most children exceed that recommendation is concerning for all of those outcomes."