The amount of time that children and teens spend watching television may have more to do with their parents’ TV habits than with family media rules or the location of TVs within the home, according to a study in the August 2013 issue of Pediatrics, “The Relationship Between Parents’ and Children’s Television Viewing,” published online July 15.
As part of the Annenberg Media Environment Study, the researchers interviewed 1,550 parents with children 17 years old or younger. They asked about the amount of time parents spent watching TV, DVDs, or movies and shows on their computers, as well as the number of TVs in the home, which rooms the TVs were in, and how many rooms had computers with Internet access. They also asked about their children’s screen time as well as family rules about the amount of time spent on TV.
On average, parents spent 4 hours per day watching television, and those who watched more also had children who watched more. Parents’ time restrictions for their children around TV viewing only resulted in reduced screen time for the children in the 6- to 11-year-old age group. Many parents gave permission for their adolescent children to complete a survey about their TV viewing as part of the study, and these adolescents reported their daily average amount of screen time was nearly an hour more than their parents had estimated. The researchers found that parents’ TV viewing time had a stronger connection to children’s viewing time than did other factors such as rules about time limits, whether the children had a TV in the bedroom, and co-viewing. Each hour of parental TV time resulted in almost an additional half hour of viewing time for their children.
The authors conclude that this information is useful for education efforts about screen time, and reinforces the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that “parents should be good media role models.”