For children aged 3-12 years old, reducing nighttime TV viewing seems to a promising direction for helping children achieve healthier viewing amounts. A new CcaM study shows decreased viewing before bedtime is associated with reduced overall TV viewing for all children regardless of age, race, parental education, or family income.
This study showed that children who infrequently or never view television before bed view nearly an hour less television per day than children who frequently view television before bed. When it comes to highlighting specific behaviors that parents can do at home to help reduce their children’s TV time, this finding suggests that turning the TV off in the evening can be an effective way to help ensure that children have healthy viewing amounts.
It is well know that youngsters today spend a significant portion of their daily life watching TV. High levels of television consumption have been associated with a host of health and behavioral problems including obesity, attention problems, reading deficits, and poor educational achievement. Finding ways to help ensure children have a healthy television diet – one that effectively balances both the quality of programming with the quantity of programming is important.
Television viewing is an integral part of the family system. Research indicates that changing children’s home TV environment is best achieved by targeting the family system – in particular, parents. Research has also shown that parents find reducing children’s TV viewing to be challenging, and that messages to parents about reducing TV will be best received if they highlight small feasible changes that parents can make at home.
Although researchers have identified several small behavioral changes that parents can make at home, up until now, there has been no evidence to support which of these home TV practices are most appropriate to communicate to parents of young children. This study was designed to address this gap by investigating how four TV practices – namely, reduced background TV exposure, reduced TV during meals, no bedroom television, and reduced TV use before bed – were associated with children’s viewing amounts. These relationships were evaluated in the context of children’s age, race, parent education, and family income.
Results of this study show that, overall, all four TV practices were associated with reduced TV viewing. However, these patterns varied by demographic variables - making the point that not all TV practices work the same way for all family systems. In fact, reduced nighttime TV viewing was the only behavior that was consistently associated with reduced viewing across demographic contexts. As such, this behavior is most appropriate for broad-reach messages (as opposed to more tailored interventions) aimed at parents of children 3-12 years old.
For this study, data from 360 parents of children 3-12 years old completed a phone survey. In addition to demographic questions, parents completed a series of questions designed to understand the family TV environment.
The study was conducted by CcaM director Jessica Taylor Piotrowski along with colleagues at the Annenberg Public Policy Center in the United States. Click here to read the article “Identifying Family Television Practices to Reduce Children’s Television Time” published in the Journal of Family Communication.