Monday, November 23, 2009

TV watching in licensed child care

In a phone survey of providers in Michigan, Washington, Florida and Massachusetts, 70% of home providers and 36% of centers admitted that kids in their care watch TV, DVDs or videos every day.

For preschoolers, the average time watched in centers was 24 minutes, and in the family homes it was 2.4 hours a day.

For toddlers it was 6 minutes a day in centers and 1.6 hours a day in family homes. Even infants get 12 minutes a day in family care.

And none of this counts passive viewing. Since I think most centers and certainly some family homes never use TV, some probably plop the kids in front of them all the time.

T'he American Academy of Pediatrics says no TV at all under 2 and 1 to 2 hours a day for older kids. This means that toddlers and preschoolers are average getting more than their entire daily dose in child care, and then they go home to another full overdose.

What I wonder is what the cumulative effect this will have not just on individual kids but on the culture. Since most of the youngest kids in child care are in family home care, if we subject a big proportion of our toddlers to an extra hour and a half a day of TV, will we, oh, I don't know, lower our collective IQ by a point?

At what point does TV watching (both what and how much) become a public health issue that we have to answer with regulation? My answer is never, or at least not in the visible future. We should educate people about the dangers of TV for little kids, but I'd not be in favor of regulating it in Title 22 child care. Title 5 is a different animal, and I see no problem regulating TV watching there.

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