With the TV, Like Parent, Like Child

TV watching habits among children influenced by parent viewing habits

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) In a world overwhelmed with media, parents may find it challenging to positively influence their children's TV watching habits. But all parents already own their best tool — a mirror.

A recent study found children's TV watching habits were strongly influenced by the viewing habits of their parents.

The more parents watched TV, the more their children watched TV.

Parents wishing to lessen the time their children spend in front of a TV or computer can start by limiting their own media diet.

"Be a role model for your kids."

The study, led by Amy Bleakley, PhD, MPH, of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, looked at the extent to which parents' TV viewing habits influenced their children's TV watching.

The researchers conducted an online survey of 1,550 parents from across the US whose backgrounds represented the typical demographics of the US population.

They included 64 percent whites, 12 percent blacks, 17 percent Hispanics and 6.5 percent other races/ethnicities.

About a third of the parents had graduated from college, 29 percent attended some college and 39 percent had, at most, a high school education.

The parents' children were grouped into three age groups: those aged 5 and younger, those aged 6 to 11 and those aged 12 to 17.

The 629 teenaged children of the parents were also surveyed.

The parents were asked how often they watched TV on a typical weekday and on a typical weekend day.

In the survey, "TV viewing" included not only TV shows but also DVDs or movies watched on a TV or on a computer.

Then they were asked several other questions about their media use before being asked about how often their children watched TV on typical weekdays and weekend days.

The researchers found that parents watched an average of almost four hours of TV a day, and 70 percent of them had TVs in their bedrooms.

Meanwhile, the children watched an average of almost three hours of TV a day, and 46 percent had a TV in their bedrooms.

Interestingly, the surveys of the teens revealed that they watched TV an average of 47 minutes more each day than their parents estimated that they watched.

Also, parents of children aged 6 to 11 were those most likely to watch TV with their children.

The average number of TVs in the respondents' homes was three, and the older the children were, the more likely they were to have a TV in their bedrooms.

When the researchers statistically analyzed the parents' and the children's viewing habits, they found that parents' viewing time was related to the children's viewing time.

Basically, the more time parents spent watching TV, the more likely it was that their children spent more time watching TV.

"Interventions to reduce television time among children may benefit from a greater focus on parents," the researchers wrote.

"Educating parents about the relationship between their own viewing and their child’s viewing by helping them to become aware of the time they spend watching television may be a useful approach," the researchers wrote.

This study was published July 15 in the journal Pediatrics.

The research received no external funding, and the authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 12, 2013
Last Updated:
July 29, 2013