Background television and young childrenThis article from the journal Child Development is terrifying, but a great study design. Researchers brought in 150 toddlers into the lab (separately) and had them play with toys for an hour. For half the time, Jeopardy! was playing on a TV in the background. Researchers monitored how often the kids glanced at the television, and how long they had focused play with the toys. The background noise, even when coming from a show the kids had no interest in, changed their play patterns, reducing their focus and length of engagement with the toys.
So, we already know that lots of kids grow up in TV-heavy households, eat crappy processed food, and get medicated when the corn syrup wears off in class. But what about the responsible parents, or the overzealous ones who play Mozart in-utero and think a little background Jeopardy! will help their little ones remember state capitals years later?