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Publication #FAR0425

TV and Very Young Children1

Suzanna Smith2

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Television is a huge part of family life in the United States. Most households have 3 or more TVs, and "in the average American home, the television is on about 6 hours a day" (Vandewater et al., 2005, p. 562).

Television is a big part of children's lives, too. Recent research conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (2005) found that nearly 60% of children under the age of two watch TV on a typical day for an average of two hours. Nearly 40% of children ages 6 and under live in a house where the TV is always or mostly on, even if no one is watching (Vandewater et al., 2005, p. 573).

For years, TV programming for children was aimed at preschoolers and older children. Research showed that some educational programs could help three-, four- and five-year-olds build vocabulary and develop language and thinking skills (see review in Kaiser, 2005). New programs are now targeting toddlers and even babies. Current research shows that children under the age of two do pay attention to programs that are made for them, but that babies and toddlers do not seem to learn much from TV, while they do learn more from live interactions with people (Anderson & Pempek, 2005). In fact, watching TV or having TV on in the background may interfere with their cognitive development and ability to focus (Anderson & Pempek, 2005; Wartella, Vandewater, & Rideout, 2005; Vandewater et al., 2005).

Researchers admit that not much is known about the impacts of media on the very youngest children, and more research is needed. But in the meantime, parents who want their children to watch TV may want to choose high-quality educational programs—and make sure to balance these with time for just plain playing and talking.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our Website at

To listen to the radio broadcast:


Anderson, D. R., & Pemkek, T. A. (2005). Television and very young children. American Behavioral Scientist, 48, 505-522.

Griffeth, V. (2003). Babes in media land. University of Texas at Austin Office of Public Affairs. Retrieved April 1, 2005, from

Kaiser Family Foundation. (2005, January). The effects of electronic media on children ages zero to six: A history of research. Retrieved April 26, 2006, from



This document is FAR0425, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 427. Published March 2009. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Suzanna Smith, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.