I am a big fan of center-based childcare (i.e. daycare). Jasper started when he was a few months old, and though the first year was tough with illnesses, by age 15 months they had started a pre-school type curriculum. I love that we don’t have to constantly schedule activities and play dates to keep him entertained. Instead, he’s learning music, dance and sports, and has made great friends that he sees every day. That’s why, even when we hired a full-time nanny when Sam was born (I didn’t want to deal with the illness thing again, and I needed more evening/travel coverage), we kept Jasper in daycare/preschool, pretty close to full-time.
So I was fascinated to see a recent study from the CDC finding that there’s another reason to like center-based childcare. Kids in childcare are much less likely to watch too much TV.
In Oregon, public health types surveyed 2-year-olds’ TV viewing. They found that only 7.8% of 2-year-olds in childcare centers watched more than 2 hours of TV per day, whereas 23.2% of children who were home with a parent (i.e., in the “no childcare” category) watched more than 2 hours per day. The report noted that it was possible parents were unaware of TV watching in childcare centers, but said this was unlikely, as 89% of childcare centers do not use TV with toddlers, and the mean viewing time in centers is only 0.1 hours per day.
I’ve written before on this blog of the difficulty of finding any evidence for the effect of maternal employment on children. While individual studies may find one statistically significant data point (which then get turned into huge headlines), overall, it’s mostly a wash. This study may point toward one of the reasons for the ambiguous results. Perhaps kids gain something from having the one-on-one time with a parent who is out of the workforce, but if the parent is more likely to put the child in front of the TV than a childcare center, then some of that benefit disappears.