Objectives. Recognizing the negative effects of television on children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children 2 years and older watch <2 hours of television per day and that children younger than 2 years watch no television. However, relatively little is known about the amount of television viewed by infants and toddlers. The objective of this study was to describe the prevalence and correlates of television viewing that exceeds the AAP guidelines for 0- to 35-month-olds and to examine the trajectory of a child’s viewing over time.
Methods. Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1990 to 1998, were used to analyze reported television viewing at 0 to 35 months of age and to follow the trajectory of a child’s viewing from infancy through age 6. Logistic regression models were used to determine risk factors associated with greater television viewing at 0 to 35 months and the association of early viewing habits with school-age viewing.
Results. Seventeen percent of 0- to 11-month-olds, 48% of 12- to 23-month-olds, and 41% of 24- to 35-month-olds were reported to watch more television than the AAP recommends. Compared with college graduates, less-educated women were more likely to report that their children watched more television than recommended. Children who watched >2 hours per day at age 2 were more likely to watch >2 hours per day at age 6 (odds ratio: 2.7; 95% confidence interval: 1.8–3.9), controlling for maternal education, race, marital status and employment, household income, and birth order.
Conclusions. A substantial number of children begin watching television at an earlier age and in greater amounts than the AAP recommends. Furthermore, these early viewing patterns persist into childhood. Preventive intervention research on television viewing should consider targeting infants and toddlers and their families.