What do doctors say about young children's television viewing habits? How long in front of the screen is too

long? According to advice given to the Australian government, tots should be kept away from the box until they are at least 2-years-old.

The Get Up and Grow report on healthy eating and exercise in early childhood commissioned from Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital warns parents that sitting infants in front of screens "may reduce the amount of time they have for active play, social contact with others and chances for language development."

Even short stints may "affect the development of a full range of eye movement" and "reduce the length of time they can stay focused."

The researchers said that in some homes - and in many child care centres - a television set is on the whole time.

University of South Australia child psychologist Glenn Cuppitt said the report said more about the need for activity rather than the dangers of being sedentary.

"Children need to be physically active, and if parents and child care centres are simply placing them in front of a television and leaving them there, then it cuts down the amount of time that they are actually involved in other activities," he said.

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