Many parents choose home-based day care over larger day care centers because they feel it offers a more personal experience for their child. But according to a new study out of the University of Washington, the home-based day care experience might be a little too much like home for some kids. In much the same way parents sometimes use television as an electronic babysitter, the study found that a surprising number of home-based day care centers do, too. The researchers came to this conclusion after conducting telephone surveys of 168 licensed child care programs in Michigan, Washington, Florida and Massachusetts. 70 percent of the home-based day care centers reported allowing their charges to watch television shows and videos on a daily basis. This is compared to just 36 percent of the larger day care centers. What’s more, they found that the kids in home-based day care centers averaged about 2.4 hours of screen time daily compared to just 24 minutes in larger day care settings.
Add those tv-watching hours to the time many kids spend in front of the television at home, and children in home-based day care centers could potentially be watching television for as much one third of a typical 12-hour day!
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that kids under two years of age shouldn’t be watching any television at all and that older kids should be limited to 1 to 2 hours a day. According to research, too much television can impair language development and contribute to obesity, attention problems and aggression. Knowing that, why are home-based day care providers and parents allowing young children to watch so much television?
According to Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, it may be because television has seeped into our lives to the such a degree that we have come see it as “benign.” But he is hopeful that this will change. He likens the situation to that of the seat belt. Just was we are now very aware of the safety implications of not buckling up our kids, he believes that in time we will also collectively ‘get’ the dangers of watching too much television.
In the meantime, do you know what your kids are doing in day care all day long? Are they learning and socializing? Or are they staring at a screen for hours on end?
Photo: Diego Cupolo/Flickr