Parents’ Views on Their Kids’ TV Watching
Tube Time Survey* Results
We asked our readers to tell us about your families’ TV-viewing habits, rules and issues. Here’s a look at what they had (see Profile below) had to say about:

Controlling Content
Viewing Decisions
Parents’ Concerns
Access and Exposure
The Respondants

How Much TV?

  • 37 percent of our respondents say their children watch one hour or less of TV daily.
  • 24 percent say they watch one to two hours.
  • 3 percent report that on an average day, their children watch no TV.
So roughly 64 percent are adhering to the TV-viewing time limits for children over 2 years of age recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. (The AAP’s stance is that children younger than 2 shouldn’t be watching any TV at all.) But 36.5 percent of respondents reported that their children are watching two or more hours a day.
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Imposing Limits

  • 39.5 percent of respondents base TV-watching limits on whether or not homework is done.
  • 33 percent base them on whether it’s a weekday or weekend.
  • 27 percent allow or restrict viewing as a reward/punishment for behavior.
Respondents also commented that the program had to be “worthwhile” for their children to be allowed to watch it. “Is it worth your time?” wrote one parent. “There are so many activities available to today’s children, why must we allow the media to steal our precious time?”
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Controlling Content
Most parents agree that controlling content is important. Children and teens watch an estimated 10,000 violent acts each year, according to a report from the National Television Violence Study being conducted by media researchers at four universities. The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes exposure to violence in media, including TV, as a significant risk to the health of children and adolescents. Extensive research indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares and fear of being harmed. Most respondents (75 percent) reported that they restrict the content of what their children watch. But 18.5 percent reported setting no limits at all.
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Factors in Viewing Decisions
What influences parents’ decision to let children watch?

  • 60.5 percent of the respondents make their decisions about programming after screening the program themselves.
  • About 10 percent indicated that they rely on word of mouth and parent rating systems.

  • Only 6 percent reported using industry ratings systems.
  • 22 percent reported being influenced by what their children want to watch. Respondents also reported ruling out certain categories of programming. All said they forbid some kinds of shows:
  • 63 percent say no to talk shows.
  • 54 percent declare action shows off-limits.
  • 50 percent don’t allow dramas/docudramas.
  • 42 percent eliminate sitcoms.
  • 4.5 percent don’t allow animated or cartoon programs.
  • 1 percent don’t allow sports.
Among the specific types of programs parents cited as undesirable were music videos (“even on the Disney Channel”), professional wrestling, Rugrats and The Simpsons (not appropriate for preschoolers – “I don’t like the language: ‘stupid,’ ‘dumb,’ ‘butthead,’ etc.”), and even Barney (“more than I will allow.”).
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Parents’ Concerns
While this may make it sound easy, there are still areas of frequent conflict between children and parents when it comes to TV viewing. Respondents stated that:

  • There is too much violence – of all kinds – in children’s programming.
  • Children want to watch specific programs or categories of programming that parents think are too adult.
  • Children want to watch more TV than parents think is appropriate.
Some parents, however, say that they don’t encounter conflict since the house rules have been made clear: “There are no choices. I am the parent.”
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Access and Exposure
All of our respondents reported having at least one TV in the house:

  • 22 percent have just one TV.
  • 30 percent have two TVs.
  • 24 percent have three.
  • 24 percent have four or more.
  • 42 percent say their child has no TV in the bedroom.
  • 58 percent say their child does have a TV in the bedroom.
Two respondents commented on other issues related to exposure and access to TV: “My personal pet peeve is that it is very difficult to go out to eat in a restaurant that doesn’t have a TV in every corner,” noted one parent. “Needless to say, what is on is not usually suitable for young children.”

Another mom, who acknowledged that there are many TVs in her home, reported being very involved in monitoring her children’s access: “I will first watch the show,” she wrote. “They do have cable in their rooms, but some channels are locked, and there’s no Pay-Per-View access. We rent videos and approve them first.”

One thing for parents to keep in mind is that access to TV directly affects how much time children spend watching and how much time they spend doing others things, such as school work, according to a 2001 study by the Harvard School of Public Health. Children who do not have a TV in their bedroom watch less TV and read or do homework more. High TV use is also associated with increased risk of obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents not to place TVs in children’s bedrooms.
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Our Respondents
Of parents who responded:

  • 33 percent are parents of children ages 4 and under.
  • 32 percent have children ages 5 to 8.
  • 16 percent have kids ages 9 to 12.
  • 18 percent are parents of teens.
  • 1 percent did not respond to that question.
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