A new Kaiser Family Foundation study finds that a lot of very young kids watch TV, but that a majority of parents (66%) say that their kids pick up good habits from TV, like sharing and helping.
Only 23% say their kids have imitated negative behaviors, like hitting or kicking, from TV, though given that parents are using the TV as a tool to make their lives more manageable, some are likely to want to believe it to be a positive influence.
Eight of 10 children under 6 are daily TV and computer users, averaging and hour and 57 minutes a day.
The year-long focus group study of 1,051 parents between March 2005 and March 2006, found that many parents of children 6 and under use the TV as a babysitter, including while their kids are eating and going to sleep.
The study found that 61% of babies (a year and under) average an hour and 20 minutes of screen time with TV or a computer per day.
Nonetheless, there was a decrease in the number of households that say they keep the TV on all or most of the time, from 37% in a 2003 study to 32% in this study.
“Parents have a tough job, and they rely on TV in particular to help make their lives more manageable,” said Kaiser's Vicky Rideout.
One limitation of the study is that it was from only four cities, Columbus, Ohio; Irvine, Calif.; Denver, colo.; and Washington, D.C., so it represents a fairly narrow geographic slice of a pretty big country.
Network-backed TV Watch, which is advocating parental control over the TV to head off more content regulation, used the study as an opportunity to push that agenda.
"According to today's Kaiser Family Foundation report, more families with young children are choosing to keep the TV on in the family room and in kids' bedrooms," said TV Watch Executive Dirctor Tim Dyke in a statement.
"No matter where the TV is or how often it's on, parental controls give parents the freedom to control what their kids see on TV," he said. "Ratings allow them to make informed decisions, and control tools like the V-chip and blocking technology help enforce those decisions – even if parents aren’t in the room.”
The TV industry--broadcast and cable, programmers and distributors-- is mounting a $300 million information campaign about content control tools. For this study, that would be letting them know how much control they have over their electronic babysitter.