Television Viewing in Child Care Programs: A National Survey

Article excerpt

Although the amount of television that young children watch at home is well-described, to date no study has examined how much television preschool children watch in day care settings. We performed a cross-sectional analysis using the Profile of Child Care Settings Study, examining predictors of television viewing in center (n = 2089) and home-based (n = 583) child care programs. On average, preschool-aged children were reported to watch more than four times as much television while at home-based programs than at center-based programs (1.39 hours per day vs 0.36 hours per day); with significant differences between groups in the type of television content viewed, and in the proportions of programs in which no television viewing occurred at all. The proportion of programs where preschool-aged children watched no television during the child care day was 65% in center-based programs and 11% in home-based programs. The hours a program was open each day was associated with increased television viewing in both settings; provision of after-school care to older children and being in a county with high family poverty rates were only significant factors in center-based programs. Factors associated with decreased television viewing included post-secondary education of staff members, as well as the average staff volume of the program. Preschool children in day care settings watch a considerable amount of television in addition to what is viewed at home. These results further highlight the urgent need to better understand the effects of viewing on young children.

Keywords: Children; Daycare; Television

**********

American children watch an astonishing amount of television (Christakis, Ebel, Rivara, & Zimmerman, 2004; Rideout, Vandewater, & Wartella, 2003). On average, young children spend more time watching television than any activity except sleep. Because of concerns regarding the untoward effects of viewing in young children, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that children under the age of 2 watch no television at all and that children older than 2 limit viewing to less than 2 hours per day (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001a; Certain & Kahn, 2002; Christakis, Zimmerman, DiGiuseppe, & McCarty, 2004). Ample evidence exists that these recommendations are ignored (Certain & Kahn; Christakis, Ebel, et al., 2004; Rideout et al.). Prior population-based estimates of the frequency and amount of television viewing in this age group have been based on surveys administered to parents who were queried about television viewing in the home (Rideout et al.), and suggest that children under the age of 6 watch on average 1.3 hours of television per day. But these amounts may in fact underestimate the true amount of television that young children view, as 77% are cared for by someone other than a parent (U.S. Department of Education, 1995). To date, no study has systematically examined the amount of television that preschool-aged children may be watching in child care settings.

We therefore conducted a study with two objectives: 1) to describe the frequency and amount of television viewing in a nationally representative group of licensed child care settings, and 2) to determine predictors of television viewing in these settings.

Methods

Data Source

Data for this analysis were obtained from the nationally representative Profile of Child Care Settings study, which was conducted for the U.S. Department of Education and is available through Sociometric's American Family Data Archive. The study used computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) methods to survey child care center directors (N = 2089) and home-based child care providers (N = 583) between October 1989 and February 1990. Sampling was based on how child care programs were licensed in their particular state. Lists of home-based and center-based programs were obtained from state or county regulators for each county/metropolitan area surveyed. …