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Family Influences on Children's Media Use

Shari L Barkin1, Irma M Richardson2, Edward H Ip3, Stacia A Finch4 and Richard C Wasserman4,5. 1Pediatrics & Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston Salem, NC; 2Pediatrics, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston Salem, NC; 3Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston Salem, NC; 4Pediatric Research in Office Settings, Center for Child Health Research, American Academy of Pediatrics, Elk Grove Village, IL and 5Pediatrics, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT.

Background: Studies show that excess media exposure (ME) can have adverse affects, yet US children spend more than the recommended time engaged in these activities (less than 2 hours/day).

Objective: To describe the extent to which children are exposed to media and identify family factors associated with lower ME.

Design/Methods: As part of a national randomized controlled trial currently underway in the Pediatric Research in Office Settings (PROS) network, 895 parents of patients ages 2-11 completed a 76-item survey during well child visits. We examined children's ME (this included use of TV, videos, computers, and gameboys) and its associations with the primary caregiver's childhood experience and media-related beliefs.

Results: Sixty-four percent of parents indicated that they were the primary caregiver during the weekays, while 96% indicated they were the primary caregiver over the weekend. About 30% reported a TV being in their child's bedroom and 60% reported allowing their child to view media - as long as they want - sometimes, often, or always during the past month. Reflecting on their own upbringing, 44% of respondents indicated watching a lot of TV as a child, with 30% stating they were allowed to watch "unlimited TV." Almost half of respondents indicated that one main decision maker, most often the mother, determined media use, with the other half indicating two-decision makers were involved. Over 95% of respondents felt that it was "somewhat" or "very important" to control ME. Mean weekday daily ME was 2.5 hours (+/- 9 minutes); mean weekend daily ME was 3.5 hours (+/- 7 minutes). A multiple regression model determined that children had less ME if: the parent believed that watching violent TV makes a child afraid (p=0.02), a parent had not high ME as a child (p=0.007), maternal education was college level or higher (p=0.05), and the family had a higher income (p = 0.0009).

Conclusions: The children in this sample experienced more ME than major medical organizations recommend. The fact that families who believed that TV violence increases children's fears limited their children's ME, suggests that counseling directed at the adverse effects of media on children could be effective in decreasing ME.

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