Pre-school children are more likely to end up watching more than an hour a day of television in households where parents tend to leave the TV on, regardless of whether they are watching or not.
A study looking at the factors in screen time for children aged three to five also found that households where there were restrictions on outdoor play were also likely to see higher rates of television watching among pre-schoolers.
The study was based on the behaviours of 332 young children and their parents.
Noting that television screen time was a “highly prevalent sedentary behaviour among children aged less than five years”, the study looked at the data relating to the young children, who attended 25 different pre-schools from across Dublin.
It looked not just at how long the television was left on and whether or not adults were watching it, but also at activity levels within the household, including moderate and vigorous exercise.
According to the study, the majority of parents (almost 80%) reported that they set rules on children’s TV viewing and tended to reduce the TV time if the child misbehaved (72%).
Leaving the TV on whether it was being watched or not was a common practice for 21.1% of parents and active play rules were frequently reported by parents, for example, children were allowed to play actively inside “all the time” (64.2%) but not allowed to play outdoors “all the time” (63.6%%).
Almost all households had an outdoor garden or space (91%) with play equipment such as trampolines, slides and swings available in 48.9% of households.
The majority of households (85.2%) had at least one television with cable or satellite TV while only a few children had a TV or game console in their bedroom.
There were a number of factors considered when it came to influencing younger children to watch television for longer periods. Children whose parents spent greater time watching TV were 65% more likely to watch an hour or more of TV daily compared to children whose parents spent less time watching TV daily.
Having a TV in the same room where meals are eaten