Objective: To test the hypothesis that audible television is associated with decreased parent and child interactions.
Design: Prospective, population-based observational study.
Participants: Three hundred twenty-nine 2- to 48-month-old children.
Main exposures: Audible television. Children wore a digital recorder on random days for up to 24 months. A software program incorporating automatic speech-identification technology processed the recorded file to analyze the sounds the children were exposed to and the sounds they made. Conditional linear regression was used to determine the association between audible television and the outcomes of interest.
Outcome measures: Adult word counts, child vocalizations, and child conversational turns.
Results: Each hour of audible television was associated with significant reductions in age-adjusted z scores for child vocalizations (linear regression coefficient, -0.26; 95% confidence interval [CI], -0.29 to -0.22), vocalization duration (linear regression coefficient, -0.24; 95% CI, -0.27 to -0.20), and conversational turns (linear regression coefficient, -0.22; 95% CI, -0.25 to -0.19). There were also significant reductions in adult female (linear regression coefficient, -636; 95% CI, -812 to -460) and adult male (linear regression coefficient, -134; 95% CI, -263 to -5) word count.
Conclusions: Audible television is associated with decreased exposure to discernible human adult speech and decreased child vocalizations. These results may explain the association between infant television exposure and delayed language development.