UNCW Faculty Member Co-Authors a Study that Shows U.S. Children Exposed to about 4 Hours of Background TV Daily

Monday, October 01, 2012

Wilmington, N.C. - A UNC Wilmington faculty member has co-authored a study published today by the journal Pediatrics that indicates U.S. children between the ages 8 months to 8 years are exposed to nearly four hours of background television each day.

The study, led by Matt Lapierre of the Communication Studies Department at UNCW, revealed that on a typical day children were exposed to 232 minutes of background television. According to Mr. Lapierre, these results were both staggering and unexpected "while we certainly believed that background television exposure would likely be greater than foreground exposure, we were not expecting this as children are exposed to three times more background television than foreground television."

Lapierre and co-authors Jessica Piotrowski from the University of Amsterdam and Deborah Linebarger from the University of Iowa conducted the first in-depth, national study of background TV and its pervasiveness in children's lives. The study defines background TV as television that is operating in the background in a room where a child is playing or engaging in another activity unrelated to the TV, such as eating dinner or playing with siblings.

Key findings show that children ages 2 and under are exposed to 42 percent more background television each day than the average child was, and African American children are exposed to 45 percent more than the average child.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, which publishes Pediatrics, warns against background television, especially in homes with children under age 2, because "it can harm children's cognitive functioning and social play."

Lapierre and the other authors recommend that parents reduce their children's exposure to background television by turning off the TV when no one is watching, removing televisions from the child's bedroom, and turning it off at key points during the day, such as mealtimes and bedtimes.

The study, first presented at the International Communication Association's annual conference in May 2012, has received media attention from CNN, USA Today and WebMD, among other publications, websites and blogs.

Media Contact: Andrea Weaver, Office of University Relations, weavera@uncw.edu or 910-962-7631.