Toddler watching TV

A new study shows that TV watching may differ by culture.
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If you have children, how much TV did you allow them to watch as toddlers?  While some believe educational programming will help their child succeed, others feel exactly the opposite.  They say television only stunts a child’s academic development.

There are various reasons parents allow their kids to watch TV.  They may be exhausted from working all day and then taking care of the kids.  Other parents, with limited English, fear their children will not learn to speak the language if they don’t watch.  Some parents might also think their kids can gain from watching educational shows like “Sesame Street.”

Different thinking about the risks and benefits of television viewing might come from one’s cultural background, according to a new study by Wanjiku Njoroge, M.D., of Seattle Children’s Research Institute. The findings support a previous study that showed that preschool-aged children consume a substantial amount of media, which comes with some positives and negatives for “cognitive and behavioral outcomes depending on what is watched and how it is watched.”

A 2006 study, known as the Kaiser Family Foundation media study, showed that ethnically / racially diverse children, specifically African American, Hispanic and Asian children, watch more television than non-Hispanic white children.

In Njoroge’s new study, nearly 600 families were surveyed.  They all had children between the ages of three and five and “completed demographic questionnaires, reported on attitudes regarding media’s risks and benefits to their children, and completed one-week media diaries in which they recorded all of the programs their children watched.”

Sesame Street stamp

Some parents believe educational programs to be good for children.
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According to study results, children watched about 462 minutes of media per week.  It found that African American children watched the most TV and DVDs per week compared to those of other backgrounds.

However, the study had one problem: the sample size was too small.  Of the 596 parents who participated, 409 were parents of non-Hispanic white, 41 were African American, 49 were Asian American/Pacific Islander/Hawaiian and 97 were multiracial children.

“Despite this limitation, the research teams’ findings echo national survey results indicating that TV viewing differs across race/ethnicity and SES,” said Njoroge, who is already planning future studies.