Having a television on reduces parent-child interaction and may hold back the development of young children—even if nobody's watching it, according to a new study. Researchers studied children ages 1 to 3 playing with their parents with and without an adult's show like Jeopardy playing in the background and discovered that parents spoke to their children 20% less when the TV was on, and became markedly less attentive and responsive, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Parent-child interaction has been shown to be vital for a child's intellectual development, and the study shows that background TV can have "negative consequences” for child development, the lead researcher said. It doesn't mean, however, "that television use in moderation is detrimental,” she said. “Our primary caution would be for parents who leave the television on most of the time, even when no one is watching." Earlier studies found that around a third of young children in the US grow up in homes where a television is almost constantly on.