Parents’ TV viewing time is strongly associated with child viewing time

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1. Parents’ television viewing (TVV) was significantly correlated with child TVV. 

2. Children with more televisions at home had increased TVV. 

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good) 

Study Rundown: While shared television viewing (TVV) among parents and children can promote positive family interactions, excessive TVV in childhood has been associated with obesity, inactivity, and poor academic performance. Results from the current study indicated that parent TVV was significantly associated with child TVV, regardless of child age. Parent TVV had a stronger relationship with child TVV than parental restrictions or coviewing practices. Furthermore, the number of televisions in the home contributed to increased child TVV, while adolescents who had a bedroom computer with Internet had decreased TVV. TVV, bedroom television, and Internet access all increased with child age. Limitations of this study include self-report and parent-report bias, particularly for parents of younger children. Nonetheless, these results suggest that efforts to reduce screen time among children may be strengthened by parent education regarding how guardian viewing habits influence their viewing.

Click to read the study, published today in Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement: Media Education

Study Author, Dr. Amy Bleakley, PhD, MPH, talks to 2 Minute Medicine: Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. 

In general we found that across children of all ages, the amount of time a parent spends watching television is strongly associated with their child’s television time.  A lot of research in this area has focused on children’s access to televisions in the home and in their bedroom.  We were able to demonstrate that a parents’ influence seems to be a stronger correlate than access. Parents may not realize how their media habits shape their children’s habits, and that what they do with regards to watching television on their own and as a family influences their child’s behavior as well.  

As clinicians, it is critical to recognize the impact of media on children’s health, and to counsel parents about the consequences of excessive media use and the important role they play in shaping their children’s media habits.

In-Depth [cross-sectional study]: A total of 1550 parents were randomly surveyed along with their children regarding media use. Parents reported 4.07 hours of TVV daily, while child TVV was 2.81 hours. Parents also reported an average of 3 televisions in the home, with 70% of parents and 46% of children having bedroom televisions. TVV and bedroom access to a television/computer increased significantly with age. Parent TVV was significantly correlated with child TVV across all age groups (r = 0.54 – 0.71). The number of televisions in the home was also associated with increased child TVV (*β = .06), while adolescents with a bedroom computer with Internet had decreased TVV (β = -.12). Female (β = .12) and African American (β = .15) adolescents reported increased TVV. Coviewing was positively correlated with TVV (β = .11) except among 6-11 year olds, while parental restrictions on TVV were linked to decreased TVV in this age group only (β = -.15).

* β values were used as a representation of the predictive value of the data, with higher β values being more predictive. 

By Cordelia Y. Ross and Leah H. Carr

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