More than half of all parents say they always limit what their children see on TV, but almost three-quarters admit their children still see televised violence at least once a week, a Johns Hopkins Children's Center researcher reports in the July issue of Pediatrics.
According to the study of 677 families with children up to 21 years old visiting a pediatrician's office in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area, families made up of younger children and mothers most often limited exposure to television violence such as physical fighting, shootings and stabbings.
"Viewing of violence on television has been associated in many previous studies with aggressive behavior, and many child health professionals recommend limiting children's exposure to it," says lead author Tina L. Cheng, M.D., director of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Children's Center.
"However, that is easier said than done," adds Cheng, who led the study while at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "Only by understanding parents' views on this issue can we develop better, community-sensitive interventions for violence prevention."
While not specifically addressed by the study, Cheng suggests that access to television outside the home, such as in daycare or at a friend's home, as well as TV sets in children's bedrooms, may account for some of the disapproved viewing.
In the study, 45 percent of parents whose children watch television reported usually or always watching television with their child. However, the study also revealed that as the child's age increased, there was an increase in the reported amount of violent television viewed and a decrease in monitoring by parents.
"The evidence linking media exposure and negative outcomes should be reinforced to parents and emphasis should be placed on the need for monitoring and involvement through school age and adolescent years," says Cheng.
She suggests parents follow guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which call for limiting all media use to no more than two hours per day, watching television with their children, removing television sets from children's bedrooms, and monitoring all media exposure, including video games and movies.
The research team surveyed the 677 parents and guardians from January 1999 to July 2000. The survey included questions on child-rearing attitudes and practices, lifestyle, and demographic information. In addition to asking about television viewing, the survey also addressed the amount of media exposure to video games and video watching. More than half of all respondents were African-American, and the majority of the parents participating were mothers.
Co-authors of the study were Ruth A. Brenner, M.D., M.P.H., Patricia Moyer, B.S., and Malla R. Rao, M.Eng., Dr.P.H., of the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development; Joseph L. Wright, M.D., M.P.H., of the Children's Research Institute, George Washington University School of Medicine, and the Children's National Medical Center; and Hari Cheryl Sachs, M.D., of Coleman, Sachs, and Thillairajah Pediatrics.