Want your kid to watch less TV? Well you might want to put down the remote control yourself, given new research that reports kids' viewing habits are directly linked to their parents'.
While this study doesn't question the merits or consequences of child TV watching, it does provide some potential hints as to what parents can do change their kids' behavior.
For this study from the University of Pennsylvania, 1,500 parents with children under the age 17 were surveyed on how much TV was watched in their homes. Separate surveys were also given to over 600 adolescents in these households, which were located across the U.S.
Regardless of the age of the child and in spite of TV rules set by parents, the best predictor for how much a kid watched was how much time their parents watched. Access to a TV in a child's bedroom was linked to more consumption, but the connection to parents' habits was about two times stronger.
On average, most kids watched TV for 3 hours per day, while their parents spent about an hour longer in front of the tube.
Parents also spent a significant amount of time watching TV with their kids, which isn't necessarily a bad pattern.
"Some homes may be characterized by an environment in which television access and time patterns are intrinsic to family routines," write the authors, who are led by Dr. Amy Bleakley, a health research analyst at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. "Our findings suggest that coviewing is associated with increased television time among young children and adolescents."
Parents with kids between the age of 6 and 11 were the most likely to spend significant amounts of TV time with their kids.
Coviewing, however, was less predictive of a child's behavior compared to parents' individual TV viewing.
The authors concluded: "Interventions to reduce television time among children may benefit from a greater focus on parents. 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 either on its own or in the context of an intervention targeted to children."
Source: Bleakley A, Jordan AB, Hennessy M. The Relationship Between Parents' and Children's Television Viewing. Pediatrics. 2013.