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TV Used to Babysit, Even If Parents Know Better

TV Used to Babysit, Even If Parents Know BetterAlthough parents may say television times should be limited or used to educate their children, a small study finds that the boob tube is often blaring and disruptive in many households.

The new University of Cincinnati study finds that young children are watching TV, videos and other screen media while parents are trying to take care of other tasks in the home.

Principal investigator Sue Schlembach discovered that although parents believed screen media could be used as an important learning tool for their young children, parents rarely use it for that purpose.

The findings come from a questionnaire answered by 21 people that explored parents’ beliefs, attitudes and behaviors into children – aged six months to five years – and screen media.

In the study, researchers explored four areas concerning children and screen time:

  • Did parents believe screen media could be an important educational tool?
  • Did they believe it was important to watch programs together with their child?
  • Did parents use screen time for instructional purposes, set rules or restrictions on screen use, or mainly use it as a monitoring or recreational activity?
  • Did parents have a positive, neutral or negative attitude toward children’s screen media use?

Schlembach says her research supported previous national studies that parents may be doing other tasks while young children are watching TV.

Over half of the responders said they left the TV on during meals and 48 percent indicated that often, the TV was on when no one was really watching.

Schlembach says she was interested in exploring parental attitudes about kids and screen time because she was interested in early childhood development – specifically, young children and implications surrounding the contextual nature of screen use and learning.

The study was also motivated by American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations that there should be no screen-media viewing at all for children under age 2, and that for older children, parents should engage in viewing and interacting with their children about the program material.

“This is a study that is certainly not meant to judge people, but rather to educate people about what’s going on at home,” Schlembach said.

“For young children, meal time is a really important part of the day. It’s a time for parents to engage in conversation with their children, serve as role models for dining behavior and also build on language and social skills.

“Even when parents say the TV is on when no one is watching, the TV is usually set up in the most central gathering location of the home,” she said. “In that regard, a child could be playing with his or her toys in the living room, as a TV program is producing disruptive background noise.”

Investigators hope the findings will stimulate primary care health providers to discuss screen media time with parents, consistent with the AAP recommendations.

Source: University of Cincinnati

TV Used to Babysit, Even If Parents Know Better

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). TV Used to Babysit, Even If Parents Know Better. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 20 Jun 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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