You'd have to have a V-chip in your brain to think that TV is good for kids at any age. But few parents realize that the idiot box is just as bad even when it's only on in the background.

A new study paints a frightening picture of what happens to crucial parent-child interaction when the boob tube is on in the background.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts watched 50 sets of kids and their parents for an hour. For half of that time, the parent and child were alone in a playroom with no TV. For the other half, a TV was brought in and the parent was allowed to put a program on in the background.

They found that when the TV was on, parents spent 20 percent less time talking to their kids. Not only that, but they were less active and gave their kids less attention.

And you probably thought TV was only bad for the kids. Seems like even parents fall under the spell of the comforting glow. But that's what TV does to you – it sucks you in even when you think you're not paying attention to it.

I'm not saying you need to ditch the TV entirely (even though you'd be better off if you did). Small doses of age-appropriate television won't hurt your child, as long as you don't let it become his constant companion or babysitter.

But for too many families, the TV is the social center of the home. It's on all day, every day – and there's simply no excuse for it, especially if you have a small child in your home.

Sure, you both might go through some withdrawal symptoms at first. But in the end, the quality time you'll have together will be far greater than whatever nonsense was on TV that day.