Columbia, SC (WLTX) -New research shows many kids are exposed to television - even when they're not watching it.

A study in the journal pediatrics finds in the average home the TV is on in the background four hours a day.

"The number of hours I was a little bit surprised," says Dr. Clarence Dollison.

We know that children spend a lot of time watching TV, now a new study shows that they spend up to four hours a day around a TV that's on in the background. Doctors say that can hurt them in the long run.

"The background noise seems to affect children in terms of later on in how well they are able to learn and how well they are able to concentrate," says Dollison.

A majority of Dr. Clarence Dollison's patients are African-American; a key demographic that the study says is affected by secondhand TV.

"The amounts are almost up to 6 hours a day. This is counting the child being in front of the tv and around it."

Studies show African-American households typically have more TVs in the home and TV's in the child's bedroom.
Dollison says parents should turn the TV's off and let the child entertain themselves.

"When he entertains himself he is learning how to rationalize things, he is learning how to make decisions, learning how to use his hands and eyes together. Those are things that we call the hard wiring that goes on before two years of age and those are valuable exercises for children at a young age."

He also says when the TV is on it affects a child's socialization skills.

"That particular communication link is kind of cut off or not as active as it would be if that background noise would not be there."
Doctors say don't immediately cut off all TV time when your child is home but slowly reduce the amount of time that they watch it and sometimes watch TV with your child and have a conversation.

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