Article

Background Television in the Homes of US Children

Communication Studies, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina
PEDIATRICS (Impact Factor: 5.47). 10/2012; 130(5). DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-2581
Source: PubMed
ABSTRACT
Objective:
US parents were surveyed to determine the amount of background television that their children are exposed to as well as to isolate demographic factors associated with increased exposure to background television. After this, we ask how certain home media practices are linked to children's background television exposure.

Methods:
US parents/caregivers (N = 1454) with 1 child between the ages of 8 months and 8 years participated in this study. A nationally representative telephone survey was conducted. Parents were asked to report on their child's exposure to background television via a 24-hour time diary. Parents were also asked to report relevant home media behaviors related to their child: bedroom television ownership, number of televisions in the home, and how often a television was on in the home.

Results:
The average US child was exposed to 232.2 minutes of background television on a typical day. With the use of multiple regression analysis, we found that younger children and African American children were exposed to more background television. Leaving the television on while no one is viewing and children's bedroom television ownership were associated with increased background television exposure.

Conclusions:
Although recent research has shown the negative consequences associated with background television, this study provides the first nationally representative estimates of that exposure. The amount of exposure for the average child is startling. This study offers practitioners potential pathways to reduce exposure.

Full-text

Available from: Deborah Linebarger
Background Television in the Homes of US Children
WHATS KNOWN ON THIS SUBJECT: Exposure to background
television (ie, times when the television is on but the child is
attending to another activity) is negatively associated with
childrens cognitive functioning and social play.
WHAT THIS STUDY ADDS: US children (8 months to 8 years) are
exposed to nearly 4 hours of background television on a typical
day. Younger children and African American children are exposed
to more background television. Family behaviors associated with
background television are offered.
abstract
OBJECTIVE: US parents were surveyed to determine the amount of
background television that their children are exposed to as well as to
isolate demographic factors associated with increased exposure to
background television. After this, we ask how certain home media
practices are linked to childrens background television exposure.
METHODS: US parents/caregivers (N = 1454) with 1 child between the
ages of 8 months and 8 years participated in this study. A nationally
representative telephone survey was conducted. Parents were asked
to report on their childs exposure to background television via a 24-
hour time diary. Parents were also asked to report relevant home
media behaviors related to their child: bedroom television ownership,
number of televisions in the home, and how often a television was on
in the home.
RESULTS: The average US child was exposed to 232.2 minutes of back-
ground television on a typical day. With the use of multiple regression
analysis, we found that younger children and African American chil-
dren were exposed to more background television. Leaving the televi-
sion on while no one is viewing and childrens bedroom television
ownership were associated with increased background television
exposure.
CONCLUSIONS: Although recent research has shown the negative con-
sequences associated with background television, this study provides
the rst nationally representative estimates of that exposure. The
amount of exposure for the average child is startling. This study offers
practitioners potential pathways to reduce exposure. Pediatrics
2012;130:18
AUTHORS: Matthew A. Lapierre, MA,
a
Jessica Taylor
Piotrowski, PhD,
b
and Deborah L. Linebarger, PhD
c
a
Communication Studies, University of North Carolina
Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina;
b
The Amsterdam School
of Communication Research, Department of Communication
Science, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands; and
c
Department of Teaching and Learning, College of Education,
University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
KEY WORDS
television, children, media, child development, survey
ABBREVIATIONS
TVtelevision
USUnited States
www.pediatrics.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2011-2581
doi:10.1542/peds.2011-2581
Accepted for publication Jun 19, 2012
Address correspondence to Matthew A. Lapierre, MA,
Communication Studies, University of North Carolina Wilmington,
Leutze Hall #237, Wilmington, NC 28403. E-mail: lapierrem@uncw.
edu
PEDIATRICS (ISSN Numbers: Print, 0031-4005; Online, 1098-4275).
Copyright © 2012 by the American Academy of Pediatrics
FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE: The authors have indicated they have
no nancial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.
FUNDING: This study was supported by a grant to Dr Deborah
Linebarger under a cooperative agreement between the US
Department of Education, the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting, and the Public Broadcasting System for the Ready
to Learn Initiative, PR# U295A050003. These contents do not
necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of
Education and you should not assume endorsement by the
Federal Government. This research was completed while the
rst two authors were graduate students at the Annenberg
School for Communication and the third author an assistant
professor at the Annenberg School for Communication.
PEDIATRICS Volume 130, Number 5, November 2012 1
ARTICLE
Page 1
Televisions role in shaping childrens
development has long been a focus for
researchers and pediatricians. Re-
search on children and television has
typically investigated the amount of
direct (ie, foreground) exposure the
average child experiences. Foreground
exposure estimates indicate that the
average US child between birth and 6
watches 80 minutes of television on
a typical day.
1
Research on the out-
comes of direct exposure reveals that
the effects of television are content
based. Developmentally inappropriate
television featuring violent
2,3
or sexu-
alized content
4
is associated with neg-
ative outcomes, whereas prosocial
5
and educational content
6
is associated
with positive effects.
Recent research suggests that re-
searchers and practitioners would be
wise to consider the effect that back-
ground television exposure (ie, times
when the television is on in the imme-
diate vicinity of the child, but he/she is
participating in other activities) has on
children. Background television expo-
sure has been linked to lower sustained
attention during playtime,
7
lower-
quality parent-child interactions,
8
and
reduced performance on cognitive
tasks.
9,10
Despite these concerning
ndings, researchers do not have reli-
able estimates of the prevalence of
background television exposure in US
homes. This research addresses this
gap by providing estimates from a na-
tionally representative survey of US
families. Demographic correlates of
background television exposure are
explored with these families. We then
investigate whether and how select
home media practices, previously
linked to increased foreground expo-
sure,
11
are associated with childrens
background exposure. By understan-
ding how home media practices cor-
relate with background exposure, we
are able to offer potential avenues for
reducing childrens exposure.
METHODS
Participants
After receiving approval from the
sponsoring institutions institutional
review board, a company specializing
in telephone surveys administered the
survey. The company collected a repre-
sentative sample of 1454 English-
speaking US households with at least
1 adult who was the primary caregiver
for a child between 8 months and 8
years (maximum age = 96 months).
Design
A cross-sectional survey that used a
disproportionate stratied random
digit dialing procedure was used. Ad-
ministration occurred between Janu-
ary and March 2009. Interviews were
stratied to increase the incidence of
households with children younger than
8 years of age. In households where the
adult wastheprimary caregiver for more
than 1 child between 8 months and 8
years of age, the target childwas selected
by randomly asking the respondent to
answer questions about either the child
with the most recent or the next birthday .
The response rate (39.1%) was similar to
othernationallyrepresentativesurvey
research that has assessed media use
among young children.
12
Data were weighted to adjust for the
fact that not all respondents were se-
lected with the same probability and to
account for gaps in coverage and
nonresponse biases. Design weights
were used to compensate for the known
biases from telephone interviewing, in
general, and the unique sample design
of the survey, specically. The resulting
design weights were poststratied
along several dimensions obtained
from the 2009 national estimates of the
Census American Community Survey
(see Table 1).
Procedure
After eligibility screening and informed
consent, parents were asked a series
of questions including household de-
mographics, the target childs media
use, and the home media environment.
They also completed a 24-hour time
diary designed to capture either a typ-
ical weekend day (n = 698) or a typical
weekday (n = 756). On average, par-
ticipants required 50 minutes to com-
plete the survey with the majority
completing the survey via landline
(about 96%). Participants were pro-
vided with contact information for the
study coordinator and the institutional
review board.
Measures
Demographic Factors
Respondents reported on a number of
demographic variables including childs
race (white, African American, Asian,
Hispanic, mixed, and other); childs
Latino/a ethnicity (0: no, 1: yes); care-
giver education (22-point scale desig-
ned to approximate the years of formal
education for caregivers ranged from
0 [did not go to school] to 22 [PhD, MD,
JD]); childs age (in months); family in-
come status (ie, income-to-needs ratio
whereby the family income is divided by
the poverty threshold associated with
family size
13
: 1, income/needs ratio un-
der 1; 2, income/needs ratio between 1
and 2; 3, income/needs ratio between 2
and 3; 4, income/needs ratio between 3
and 4; 5, income/needs ratio over 4);
family structure (0, multiparent family;
1, 1-parent family); and child gender (0,
girl; 1, boy).
Home Media Practices
The home media practices included
whether the childhad a television in his/
her bedroom (0, no; 1, yes), number of
televisions in the home, and how often
the television is on even when no one
was watching it (0, never; 5, always).
Background Television Exposure
To date, there is no consensus among
researchers as to how background
2 LAPIERRE et al
Page 2
television exposure should be mea-
sured. In some research,
12
a single
survey question (how often is the
television on even when no one is
watching?) with the use of a Likert
response option has been used. In
other work, researchers
710
have op-
erationalized background television
exposure by assessing the proximity of
the television to the research subject
while the subject was engaged in an
alternative activity. For this research,
we wanted to obtain a more accurate
temporal account of background ex-
posure than a single survey question
could provide as well as ensure that
our measure was broad enough to in-
clude different forms of background
exposure. To do this, a 24-hour time
diary was administered. Time diaries
are among t he best methodologies for
capturing t hose activities that are
typically completed on a daily basis
14
and have demonstrated reliability and
validity.
15
The diary was adapted from
the one used within the Child De-
velopment Supplement to the Panel
Survey of Income Dynamics and
designed to capture all of the t arget
childs activities during the previous
typical day.
For the time diary, the interviewer be-
gan with: I would like you to think
about what your child did yesterday [or
other typical day if parent indicated
different day as typical]. Im going to ll
out a time diary to detail your childs
entire 24-hour day. For some of the
activities that you mention, I will ask
related follow up questions. We would
like you to include activities such as
grooming, eating, sleeping, and travel-
ing from place to place. The inter-
viewer then asked the rst question,
Lets start with 12:01 AM on [insert
day]. What was your child doing? And
what time did it end? Up to 2 activities
could be reported for any given time
slot. The interviewer continued until
the respondent indicated that the child
went to sleep for the evening.
For each activity (with the exception of
when the child was not in the same
location as the parent, or when the
childs primary activity was watching
television), parents were asked was
there a TV on in the background while
CHILD [insert activity] (see Supple-
mental Table 5 for information about
the primary activities occurring during
background television exposure). Given
the cost and time constraints of captur-
ing background television content, we
omitted measurement of background
television content. The durations of
time when the parent reported that
there was a television on in the back-
ground were summed to create a total
estimate of background television ex-
posure (in minutes) for a typical day.
Analytic Approach
Analysis of variance models were
computed to explore whether demo-
graphic variables were associated with
differing levels of background exposure
(corrections were made to signicance
levels for multiple comparisons
16
). We
used multiple regression analysis to
predict background television exposure
from these demographic variables
(the income-needs ratio and caregiver
education variables were used as con-
tinuous variable rather than categorical
in the regression analysis). Home me-
dia practices were then added to ex-
amine relations between them and
background television exposure con-
trolling for the demographic variables.
The survey weight correction in Stata
was used for all analyses to eliminate
problems arising from incorrect SE
estimations.
17
RESULTS
Table 1 presents descriptive statistics
for the sample across demographic
variables. There were some incidences
of missing data in the sample. Forty-
two participants provided insufcient
data to assess income status, 6 fami-
lies did not indicate whether they or
their child was Latino, and 5 families
did not report whether other parents
lived in the home.
Table 2 presents background television
exposure by demographic variables.
Overall, children between 8 months
and 8 years were exposed to an aver-
age of 232.3 minutes of background
television on a typical day (95% con-
dence interval [208.6256.1]). As children
get older, they are exposed to less
TABLE 1 Sample Breakdown by
Demographic Categories
Demographic Category % or M
(95% CI)
Gender
Female 48.1
Male 51.9
Latino status
Yes 22.2
No 77.4
No response 0.4
Race
White 71.1
African American 14.0
Mixed 6.1
Hispanic 3.4
Asian American 2.7
Other 2.7
Age
8 mo to 2 y 19.1
24 y 28.1
46 y 26.5
68 y 26.3
Family structure
Single-parent home 17.8
Multiple-parent home 81.9
No response 0.3
Family income (income-
to-needs ratio)
Average income-to-
needs ratio
3.87 (3.484.25)
,1.0 12.8
1.01.99 19.4
2.02.99 18.8
3.03.99 11.7
$4.0 34.4
No response 2.9
Average caregiver
education
14.32 (14.0714.58)
High school degree or
less (12 y or fewer)
31.2
Some college to college
graduate (12+ to 16 y)
48.6
Postgraduate
education (16+ y)
20.2
CI, condence interval; M, mean.
ARTICLE
PEDIATRICS Volume 130, Number 5, November 2012 3
Page 3
background television (TV), F(3,1451) =
9.67, P , .001. Children under 24 months
were exposed to an average of 5.5 hours
of background TV per day, while the old-
est children (68 years) were exposed to
less than half that amount, 2 3/4 hours.
Children living in single-parent homes
were exposed to .5 hours of back -
ground TV per day versus about 3.5 hours
for children living in multiparent homes,
F(1,1449) = 4.70, P , .05. Family income
was inversely linked to background ex-
posure, F(4,1408) = 6.74, P , .001. Chil-
dren from the poorest families were
exposed to nearly 6 hours of background
TV on a typical day versus 3.5 hours for
children whose income-to-needs ratio
was above the poverty threshold. More-
over, as parent education increased,
background TV exposure decreased,
F(2,1452) = 17.89, P , .001. Children of
caregivers wit h the greatest amount
of formal educa tion were exposed
to ,2.5 hours of background TV,
whereas children of parents with high
school diplomas or less were exposed
to .5 hours on a typical day. Last, the
test for differences in background
exposure for children of varying races
was signicant, F(5,1449) = 2.31, P ,
.05. Pairwise co mparisons revealed
only 1 difference across all racial
groups. African American children
were exposed to margin ally mo re
background TV than white children
(5.5 hours versus 3.5 hours). Neither
gender (F(1,145 3) = 0.0 4, P =.84)nor
child ethnicity (F(1 ,144 8) = 0.18, P =
.67) were associated with background
television exposure.
All demographic variables were then
submitted to an ordinary least squares
regression predicting background TV
exposure (see Table 3). The overall
model was statistically signicant,
F(11,1394) = 5.37, P , .001, R
2
= 0.11.
When controlling for all other demo-
graphic variables, exposure to back-
ground TV was highest for younger
children, African American children,
and children of parents with less for-
mal education.
Our nal analysis explored whether
certain media practices in the home
were linked to background exposure
while controlling for the demographic
variables. These practices were the
number of televisions in the home, the
presence of a television in the childs
bedroom, and the frequency that tele-
visions were left on in the home even
when no one was watching. The addi-
tion of these variables accounted for
signicant variance in the model, DF
(3,1388) = 73.58, P , .001, DR
2
= 0.22.
The presence of a television in the childs
bedroom and the increased incidence of
keeping a television on in the home
predicted signicantly greater exposure
to background TV (see Table 4).
DISCUSSION
This article catalogs the amount of
background television young children
in the United States are exposed to on
a typical day. Background exposure has
not garnered the same research at-
tention that foreground television ex-
posure traditionally has, with only
a handful of studies examining this
phenomenon. Recent studies suggest
that researchers and practitioners
should be concerned about the impact it
has on childrens development and
well-being.
710
Our results indicate that
children are exposed to a tremendous
amount of background TV. The average
US child ,8 years is exposed to just ,4
hours (232.2 minutes) of background
television on a typical day. This level of
exposure easily dwarfs foreground
TABLE 2 Background Television Exposure in Minutes by Demographic Category
Demographic Category M (95% CI)
All 232.3 (208.6256.1)
Gender
Female 234.9 (202.4267.4)
Male 229.9 (195.5264.4)
Latino status
Yes 243.4 (184.7302.1)
No 229.6 (204.0255.2)
Race
White 217.5
@
(190.2244.8)
African American 338.1
#
(256.4419.9)
Mixed 237.4 (159.0315.9)
Hispanic 179.6 (107.9251.2)
Asian American 147.6 (48.8246.5)
Other 214.1 (140.3288.0)
Age
8 mo to 2 y 332.4
a
(277.2387.6)
24 y 261.5
c
(210.8312.1)
46 y 198.2
b
(156.0240.5)
68 y 163.0
b,d
(126.6199.2)
Family structure
Single-parent home 305.1
a
(228.4381.7)
Multiple-parent home 216.6
b
(193.3239.8)
Family income (income-to-needs ratio)
, 1.0 355.7
a
(282.6428.7)
1.01.99 274.4 (214.0334.8)
2.02.99 238.3 (184.7291.9)
3.03.99 165.2
b
(123.5207.0)
$4.0 181.8
b
(143.0220.5)
Caregiver education
High school degree or less 313.0
a
(259.8366.1)
Some college to college graduate 218.8
b
(186.6251.1)
Postgraduate education 140.5
c
(112.8168.3)
Means with differing pairs of letters [(a,b) and (c,d)] are signicantly different at P , .05. Means with differing pairs of
symbols (@,#) are marginally different at P , .10 . CI, condence interval; M, mean.
4 LAPIERRE et al
Page 4
television exposure as estimates indicate
that the a ver age US child is exposed to
80 minutes of television on a typical
day, or 3 minutes of background ex-
posure for every minute of foreground
exposure.
18
Demographic Correlates of
Background Television Exposure
Childs age is the most robust correlate
of background television exposure with
the youngest children (those children
between 8 and 24 months) in our
sample exposed to .5.5 hours of
background television on a typical day.
This is particularly startling when
considering how much attention is
paid to reducing direct exposure for
children in this age group. For example,
the American Academy of Pediatrics
19
renewed their recommendation that
children ,2 years of age should not be
exposed to any televised content.
Based on the ndings of this study, it
seems that efforts might be better
served by targeting infants and toddlers
indirect exposure given that indirect ex-
posure makes up a considerable seg-
ment of the childsday.
At present, no specic research has
investigated the reasons why back-
ground TV exposure is so high for
infants/toddlers. It may be that parents
of these children are looking for extra
stimulation when home with their
young children.
20
Spending time alone
with a nonverbal or preverbal child can
be isolating, and, as a result, parents
may be turning the television on to ll
their home with additional stimulation.
It may also be that parents do not count
background exposure as exposure. It
has only been within the past few years
that media researchers have begun
looking at the phenomenon, both in
trying to understand how much chil-
dren are exposed to
11
and the con-
sequences associated with exposure.
8
Parents of the youngest children in our
study may believe that their child can-
not understand the onscreen content
or is not affected by it (D.L.L., R. Barr
PhD, unpublished raw data). Research
is needed to identify whether these or
other alternative reasons predict infants
and toddlers heightened exposure to
background television. Identifying these
reasons will provide useful information
for the development of background
television reduction interventions.
In addition to young children, we also
found that African American children,
children from low-income families,
children living in single-parent house-
holds, and children of parents with less
formal education were exposed to in -
creased levels of background televi-
sion. This is concerning because past
research has shown that children from
these demographic groups are typi-
cally at risk for other social and cog-
nitive problems.
21
For example, African
American children and children from
low-income households are more likely
to struggle with self-regulation
22
and
have higher rates of obesity.
23,24
These
children are also more likely to live in
homes where traditional foreground
television exposure plays a greater role
during the day.
1,25,26
Family income and family structure
were both nonsignicant predictors of
background television when all demo-
graphic correlates were included in the
regression analyses. The change in
signicance for both family income and
family structure is likely attributable
to the intercorrelations between these
variables and child race and/or caregiver
education. Our study and other research
conrm that African American children
and children of parents with less edu-
cation are more likely to live in low-
income and single-parent homes.
27,28
Maintaining the signicant r elation
between race, education, and exposure
after covarying income and f amily
structure suggests that childsraceand
caregiver education are the primary
drivers in the observed relationships.
Similar conclusions have been reached
in other studies where either race or
education were included as predictors of
home media behaviors. For example, a
number of studies investigating African
American families have revealed that chil-
dren in these homes view more TV than
their nonAfrican American peers,
1,26,29,30
whereas studies looking at bedroom
television ownership have shown that
lower parent education is a strong
predictor of ownership.* These nd-
ings s uggest that attent ion should be
paid to designing intervention messages
TABLE 3 Ordinary Least Squares Regression
Predicting Background Television
Exposure
Variables B SE b
Constant 549.41 76.61
Child gender
(female = 1)
226.89 23.09 20.049
Child age
(in months)
22.25 0.42 20.207
a
Child ethnicity
(Latino = 1)
7.96 34.83 0.012
Single-parent home 33.74 42.41 0.046
Child race
African American 100.69 41.19 0.124
b
Asian American 7.14 47.02 0.004
Hispanic 275.51 43.90 20.050
c
Mixed 7.33 45.26 0.006
Other 215.17 39.10 20.009
Family income 24.68 3.09 20.068
Caregiver education 213.13 4.45 20.137
d
a
P , .001.
b
P , .05.
c
P , .10.
d
P , .01.
TABLE 4 Ordinary Least Squares Regression
Testing Inuence of Home Media
Behaviors on Background
Television Exposure
Variables B SE b
Bedroom television 60.58 29.30 0.107
a
No. of televisions in home 25.71 9.12 0.050
How often television is on 62.27 9.19 0.325
b
Model controlled for child gender, child age, child ethnicity,
family composition, child race, family income, and care-
giver education.
a
P , .05.
b
P , .001.
*Lapierre MA, Piotrowski JT, Linebarger DL. Doctors
orders: Assessing the relationship between pediatricians
media guidance and childrens media use in US families.
Poster presented at the biennial meeting of the Society
for Research in Child Development; March 31April 2, 2011;
Montreal, QC, Canada.
ARTICLE
PEDIATRICS Volume 130, Number 5, November 2012 5
Page 5
focused on background TV exposure
reduction that resonate with African
American families as well as parents
with less formal education.
Behaviors Associated With
Background Television Exposure
Although the research base concerning
background television exposure needs
to grow both in terms of understanding
exposure and outcomes related to
exposure, the current state of the lit-
erature combined with the exposure
estim ates presented here sugge st
that medical practitioners would be
well advised to discuss with parents
the potential consequences of back-
ground television exposure. To that
end, our study also provides medical
professionals and practitioners in-
formation they might give families on
ways to reduce childrens background
television at home. Specically, we
nd that bedroom television owner-
ship and, unsurpr isingl y, keeping the
television on whil e no o ne i s watching
arebothassociatedwithincreased
background exposure.
The presence of a television in a childs
bedroom has already been linked to a
number of negative outcomes including
academic underperformance,
25,31
dif-
culty regulating sleep,
32
and higher
obesity rates.
33
Linking bedroom televi-
sion ownership to increased back-
ground television exposure further
underscores the continued need for
parental recommendations that advo-
cate the removal of the television from
childrensbedrooms.
Perhaps a more substantial way to help
reduce background exposure would
be to advise parents to turn the tele-
vision off when it is not being watched.
The strongest predictor of background
television exposure was whether pa-
rents reported that the television was
continually left on. Although it may seem
tautological to suggest this, it is a sim-
ple behavior that pediatricians and
public policy advocates can encourage
families to follow.
Last, although not evaluated in this
study, a potential avenue for reducing
background television exposure may be
to remind parents to be mindful of their
own viewing. This may be particularly
effective for parents of the youngest
children who may not see their own
direct exposure as having an impact
on young children or may be using
the t elevision for companionship.
20
Although more research is needed on
how parental television viewing corre-
lates with childrens background tele-
vision exposure, medical practitioners
may wish to remind parents how their
own media exposure can affect their
children. Considering the rates of
background television exposure that
we found along with the negative as-
sociations that other researchers have
found between background television
and cognitive and social outcomes, any
effort to decrease background expo-
sure seems worthwhile.
Limitations
There are 3 important limitations as-
sociated with our study. First, we were
limited to households where at least 1
adult was a uent English speaker. Thus,
2% of all homes in our targeted
sample were ineligible to participate
(S. Sherr, personal communication,
January 21, 2009). The decision to ex-
clude nonEnglish-speaking homes
was driven by the prohibitive costs
associated with translations and in-
terview training. Second, data were
based on the response of 1 parent. Al-
though some large-sample studies
have used multiple voices as a means
of triangulation and verication, this is
quite costly and was not a feasible
option for this survey. We attempted to
alleviate t his concern by ensuring that
the interviewee was the individual
who spent most of the time directly
caring for the child. Given that the
responding parent was reporting only
what he/she could accurately report
and that these estimates reect home
exposure only, it is likely that our es-
timates presented here underesti-
mate the tota l amount of time young
children are ex posed to background
television.
The third limitation centers on our
primary dependent measure. This is the
rst study that has sought to quantify
the amount of background television
US children are exposed to and repre-
sents an important rst step; yet more
work needs to be done to improve our
understanding and measurement of
background television. As scholars in-
terested in foreground exposure have
noted, measuring media exposure is a
difcult endeavor with many issues to
consider.
34
Our measure of background
television exposure was adapted from
an existing, validated measure of fore-
ground media exposure and extensively
piloted. However, no formal tests of the
instruments reliability or validity were
conducted. Studies that seek to validate
this approach or provide alternative
measurement approaches would be
valuable. For example, direct observa-
tions of children will likely be a useful
way to further document background
television exposure as well as provide
exploration of background television
content.
CONCLUSIONS
Research on background television
exposure suggests that its prevalence
in young childrens everyday life is con-
cerning and warrants further study.
Future research should investigate
whether and how differing content
types of background television affect
children. One study has taken the rst
step to ascertain the role of background
television content with infants,
35
but
additional work is needed. Researchers
should also make an effort to identify
how childrens age may moderate the
6 LAPIERRE et al
Page 6
relationships between background tele-
vision exposure and measured outcomes.
Previous research has demonstrated
that background television exposure has
a negative effect on infants/toddlers
7,8
as
well as adolescents,
36,37
but the effect of
background television on children be-
tween these 2 age groups is unclear. Last,
and perhaps most critically , researchers
must come to a consensus about how
background television exposure is oper-
ationalized and measured. We oper-
ationalizedbackgroundexposureinthe
same manner that has been used in
previous experimental research
8,36,37
(ie,
that a television was on in the vicinity of
the child) but there are important ques-
tions regarding the extent to which con-
tent should be considered in our
conceptualization, what is meant by "vi-
cinity" (eg,thesameroom,thegeneral
household), and if the salience of the ex-
posure is important.
The work presented here establishes
the pervasiveness of background TV;
that is, the average child between 8
months and 8 years of age is exposed to
nearly 4 hours of background television
on a typical day. Even more concerning
is that children ,2 years of age and
African American children are exposed
to 42% and 45% more background TV,
respectively, than the average child.
Attempts to reduce background TV ex-
posure can start with both knowledge
about what it is and simple recom-
mendation for behavior change such
as turning off the TV when no one is
watching or taking smaller steps to
reduce exposure by turning off back-
ground TV at key points during the
childs day (eg, bedtime, mealtime).
38
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  • Source
    • "Mothers' reports were also quite consistent over time. The results for overall exposure to an operating TV/video somewhere in the home are consistent with the numerous reports of the pervasive presence of television in American homes (e.g., Anderson & Pempek, 2005; Lapierre et al., 2012; Vandewater et al., 2005; Wartella et al., 2014). In addition, the high rates of exposure to background television in the same room during play for the majority of children and the strong correlations with similar rates reported by other middle-SES samples (Masur & Flynn, 2008) support our confidence in the veracity of the mothers' answers on this self-report instrument against potential concerns regarding social desirability in a middle-SES sample. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Research on immediate effects of background television during mother–infant toy play shows that an operating television in the room disrupts maternal communicative behaviors crucial for infants’ vocabulary acquisition. This study is the first to examine associations between frequent background TV/video exposure during mother–infant toy play at home and subsequent maternal speech characteristics and infant vocabularies. Twenty-five mothers completed a survey of background television exposure and a vocabulary measure for infants aged 13 and 17 months. Mothers’ total word production and numbers of different words at each age were calculated from transcripts of play interactions with no television present. Greater exposure to background television during dyadic play negatively predicted infants’ vocabularies and mothers’ speech quantity and lexical diversity at 17 months. Moreover, these maternal speech characteristics fully mediated the association between exposure to background television during dyadic play and infants’ expressive vocabulary acquisition.
    Preview · Article · Mar 2016 · First Language
  • Source
    • "Background television is a significant source of distraction to young children at play as its formal features are salient, often novel, and come to signal interesting content. A recent survey showed that children under 2 years of age are exposed to about 332 minutes of background television a day (Lapierre, Piotrowski, & Linebarger, 2012) with the amount dropping to 163 minutes by age 8 years. Setliff and Courage (2011) reported that 6-, 12-, and 24-month-olds who were engaged in toy play spent less time attending to the toys when the television was on compared with when it was off (also see Schmidt, Pempek, Kirkorian, Lund, & Anderson, 2008). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Current work, play, and learning environments require multitasking activities from children, adolescents and adults. Advances in web-enabled and multi-function devices have created a perceived need to stay “wired” to multiple media sources. The increased demand that these activities place on information processing resources has raised concerns about the quality of learning and performance under multitasking conditions. Young children, whose attention systems and executive functions are immature, are seen to be especially at risk. To evaluate these concerns the costs and benefits of “everyday” multitasking (e.g., driving, studying, multimedia learning) are examined in relation to the classic experimental literatures on divided attention in task-switching and dual-task performance. These literatures indicate that multitasking is almost always less efficient (time, accuracy) and can result in a more superficial learning than single-task performance. Alternatively, when the cognitive, perceptual, and response requirements of the tasks are controlled by the individual, when learning platforms are developmentally appropriate, and when practice is permitted, multitasking strategies can not only be successful but can result in enhanced visual and perceptual skills and knowledge acquisition. Future progress will come from advances in cognitive and computational modelling, from training attention and brain networks, and from the neuroergonomic evaluation of performance that will enable the design of work and learning environments that are optimized for multitasking.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2015 · Developmental Review
  • Source
    • "Christakis et al. (2009) also found that children talked less overall and adults produced fewer words in the presence of an audible TV. Since, in keeping with other recent reports of substantial overall TV/video use (Lapierre et al., 2012; Wartella et al., 2014), a majority of mothers of middle-SES infants, and even more mothers of infants in the lower-SES group, reported the TV/video typically on in the home about half or more than half of all their infants' waking hours, the TV may still be an audible presence diminishing parents' and children's speech and language production at times when it is not in the same room or when children are not playing. The even greater exposure to overall background TV in lower-SES homes may, thus, contribute additionally to explaining the lower vocabulary acquisition rates by children from lower-SES backgrounds (Hart & Risley, 1995). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mothers of 126 infants, 54 lower-socioeconomic status (SES) infants (26 younger, 4–11 months; 28 older, 12–19 months) and 72 middle-SES infants (12–17 months), answered questionnaires about their infants’ typical television (TV) watching and interest, the frequency of their independent play with toys and dyadic play with and without toys, and whether or not the TV was typically on in the room at the time. Although infants spent little time actively watching TV, the majority of mothers in all groups reported the TV typically turned on in the room at least half the time during all types of play. Mothers reported middle-SES infants engaged more frequently in individual and dyadic toy play, but lower-SES infants were more often exposed to background TV/video during play. Because play is important to infant development and background TV can disrupt it, these findings raise concerns, particularly for infants residing in lower-SES households.
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