WEDNESDAY, Sept. 16, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Parent-child interactions suffer when a television is blaring in the background, a new report finds.
The finding is important because more than one-third of American infants and toddlers live in homes where the television is on most or all the time, even if no one's watching, researchers say.
In the study, published in the September/October issue of the journal Child Development, a team at the University of Massachusetts observed about 50 children, aged 1, 2 and 3 years, who were with a parent at a university child study center.
For half of a one-hour session, parents and children were in a playroom without a television; in the other half-hour, parents chose a program to watch.
The researchers studied how much verbal interaction there was between parents and children, whether parents were actively involved in their children's play, and whether they responded to each other's questions and suggestions.
The study authors found that while the TV was on, parents spent about 20 percent less time talking to their children and were less active, attentive and responsive to their kids, resulting in a decrease in the quality of the interactions.
"Although previous research found that background television disrupts young children's solitary play, this is the first study to demonstrate its impact on the quantity and quality of parent-child interactions," the researchers explained in a news release from the Society for Research in Child Development.
"Given that high-quality parent-child interaction plays an important role in children's development, the study challenges the common assumption that background TV doesn't affect very young children if they don't look at the screen," the researchers concluded.
The Nemours Foundation has more information on how TV affects your child.