Kids mimic parents' TV viewing habits

July 15, 2013 by Randy Dotinga, Healthday Reporter
Kids mimic parents' TV viewing habits
Study found that the more Mom and Dad watch, the more children turn on the television themselves.

(HealthDay)—If you want your kids to spend less time parked in front of a television, you need to set the example.

That's the message of a new study that links TV viewing habits in to how much time their parents spend in front of the tube.

"The best predictor of children's TV time is their parents' TV time," said study author Amy Bleakley, a policy research scientist at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center in Philadelphia. "If Mom and Dad automatically turn on the TV when they have free time, it's likely that their kids will learn to do the same."

There are some caveats. For one, the study relied on an , so parents who aren't on the Internet couldn't take part. Also, it's not clear what the kids were watching; the programming could have been educational. In addition, TV watching could potentially prevent kids from taking part in more harmful activities.

It's especially hard for researchers to isolate the impact of TV because so many other factors affect the lives of children. Still, "we know that high levels of TV viewing are associated with increased risk of obesity and associated illnesses among children and adults," said Russ Jago, a professor of pediatric and public health at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

"However, TV viewing also provides many benefits for children in terms of learning that are different to alternative mediums, and therefore some TV viewing is not a bad thing in itself," Jago noted. "It is about moderation."

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV for kids under 2 and a limit of two hours a day of non- for older children.

In the new study, researchers examined the results of surveys with 629 adolescents and 1,550 parents with children aged 5 or under, 6 to 11, and 12 to 17. The researchers adjusted the results so they'd better reflect American with kids in each age group.

"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," Bleakley said.

The research offers a view of the importance of parental viewing time as compared to topics of other research, such as the presence of TVs in bedrooms, she said. "Parents may not realize how their media habits shape their children's habits. They may find that if they curtail their own time with TV, their will follow suit."

Jago praised the study as large and well-designed, and said it "provides insights into factors that could be potential targets for interventions to reduce TV viewing."

The study appears online July 15 and in the August print issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Explore further: TV watching linked to eating unhealthy food

More information: For more on TV watching, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Related Stories

TV watching linked to eating unhealthy food

July 11, 2012

Adults and children who watch more television have less healthy diets, finds a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. For every age and gender studied, people who watched no more than an hour of TV a day ...

Moms may use TV to calm fussy infants, study finds

January 7, 2013

(HealthDay)—Many babies spend almost three hours in front of the TV each day, a new study finds, especially if their mothers are obese and TV addicts themselves, or if the babies are fussy or active.

Recommended for you

Youth dance classes score low in physical activity

May 18, 2015

For parents who send their kids to dance classes to get some exercise, a new study from researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine suggests most youth dance classes provide only limited amounts ...

Roller coaster rides trigger pediatric stroke

December 11, 2014

Riding a couple roller coasters at an amusement park appears to have triggered an unusual stroke in a 4-year-old boy, according to a report in the journal Pediatric Neurology.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.