Leaving the television on while no one is watching can be detrimental to the development of children, according to a new report.
Though it may seem harmless, the study, published in the online medical journal Pediatrics, found that television playing sounds and images that a child is not actually focused on can have an adverse affect on cognitive function and the development of crucial social skills.
The study was conducted among 1,454 parents and guardians who had one child between eight months and eight years of age.
“The average US child was exposed to 232.2 minutes of background television on a typical day,” according to the report, which was the first to put figures to the trend in American homes.
This average four-hour period of aimless noise was increased when age and race were factored in, with the report finding that “younger children and African-American children were exposed to more background television.”
The study found that Black children experience 5.5 hours of background television on a daily basis.
That average was the same for infants and toddlers, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that children under the age of two should not be looking at television at all.
“Background television exposure has been linked to lower sustained attention during playtime, lower-quality parent-child interactions and reduced performance on cognitive tasks,” the report stated.
Other variables included the total number of television sets in the home, and whether the child had a television in their own room.
Children from low-income homes experience the highest average amount of background television, experiencing six such hours per day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents turn the television off when children are eating, sleeping, or if no one is actively watching a program.