The average child is exposed to just under four hours of background TV a day, which experts say can lower the quality of parent-child interactions, drain children's attention spans and lower kids' performances on taks that require thinking, according to findings published in the latest issue of Pediatrics.

"You're looking at three times the amount, which is enormous," Matthew Lapierre, one of the study's authors who's an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, told USA Today. "It's really kind of shocking."

Researchers looked at the telephone survey data of more than 1,400 English-speaking households in 2009. Participants were asked to go through the activities of a typical day, noting whether the TV was on in the background of day-to-day activities.

The high rate of background television among infants or toddlers may be a result of parents and caregivers leaving the TV on to "break up the monotony" of spending large stretches of time with the child, Lapierre noted.

Pediatricians say that children under the age of 2 shouldn't watch any TV at all, NPR reported. Older children should not be in front of a computer, TV or other device with a screen for more than 2 hours a day, according to the NPR article.

Numbers are more likely higher when there is a TV in the child's bedroom or if left on without any audience, researchers said in an article in the journal. Pediatricians suggest taking televisions out of children's rooms, and parents should be mindful of what they watch and the TV be turned off when no one is watching, Los Angeles Times reported.

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She has lived in London and is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at or visit