When added to the two to three hours many parents already admit to allowing at home, preschoolers in child care may be spending more than a third of the about 12 hours they are awake each day in front of the electronic baby sitter, said Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle and a researcher at the University of Washington.
That's double the TV time he found in a previous study based on parental reports of home viewing, according to findings published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. The study is the first to look at TV watching in child care in more than 20 years.
The figures come from a telephone survey of 168 licensed child care programs in Michigan, Washington, Florida and Massachusetts. Christakis said he thought television use was probably underreported.
Of the child care programs surveyed, 70 percent of home-based child cares and 36 percent of centers said children watch TV daily. The children were watching TV, DVDs and videos. The study did not track what kind of programs were shown.
"It's not what parents have signed up for," Christakis said. "I'm not sure how many parents are aware of this."
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any television viewing of any kind in the first 2 years of life and recommends a daily limit of 1 to 2 hours of quality programming for older children.