"It's important for pre-schoolers to watch less than two hours of television each day, and what they are watching should ideally have an educational aspect.
Parents should try to turn the TV off as often as possible and do other activities such as play and read," said Dr. Jason Mendoza, assistant professor of pediatrics at BCM and a researcher at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center.
The study shows that while the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children ages 2 and over limit media time to two hours or less per day, nearly 31 percent of U.S. pre-school children exceed this limit.
The cross-sectional study was conducted using nationally representative data on children aged 2 to 5 years from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2002.
The study also reports that pre-school children who use a computer are likely to have more body fat than those who do not.
Mendoza is the principal investigator of the study and says that these findings have broad public health implications given the current epidemic of childhood obesity.
According to Mendoza, research has shown that children start to develop life-long habits for nutrition and physical activity at a young age.
If they are healthier at a young age, they are more likely to keep these habits and have an easier time leading a healthy life as they get older. It is difficult to change habits once they are ingrained, he said.
Other investigators on the study are Drs. Dimitri Christakis and Fred Zimmerman of the University of Washington.
The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program.
The CNRC is a joint program of BCM and Texas Children's Hospital.
The study can be accessed online at http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/4/1/44.