• New research shows that if parents want to successfully reduce their children’s screen-time, they should cut back on their own screen-time.
  • Kids are spending more and more time playing on iPads and sitting in front of the TV, which feeds an increase in obesity among children.
  • The researchers sought to better understand how parents’ media habits affect their kids’ media habits, which, again, contributes to the problem of obesity.
  • This study looked at secondary data analysis, which helped them understand the specifics of how much time parents and kids spent viewing screens, as well as the correlation between the two.
  • In summary, the more time parents spend looking at screens the more time their kids spend looking at screens; if they hope to change their kids’ habits, they should put the same effort into changing their own.

Quick Summary

A new study “Mothers’ and fathers’ media parenting practices associated with young children’s screen-time” from University of Guelph and published in BMC Obesity says that children’s screen-time is directly related to their parents’ screen-time. And any efforts intended to reduce children’s screen-time should start at the root, with the parents’ screen-viewing habits.


The researchers hoped to better understand how media parenting practices affect children’s screen-viewing habits, which directly contribute to obesity. While other studies have explored how a parent’s media habits affect their children, past research has focused specifically on TV viewing habits of the mother. This recent study expands the scope, as it aimed to examine the use of more popular media devices today like the iPad, in addition to TV, and look at the effects of both the mother’s and father’s habits.


To reach these important findings, researchers looked into secondary data regarding 62 children, who fell between 18 months and 5 years of age, and their parents, which included 39 mothers and 25 fathers (64 parents total). To assess the children’s screen-viewing habits, the parent’s screen-viewing habits, and the correlation between the two, the parents were asked general questions like:

  • How they control their kids’ screen-time
  • When they allow their kids to engage in screen-time
  • Whether or not they engage in screen-time in front of their kids


The researchers came across a few significant findings. First, they found that children typically spend an hour and a half a day looking at screens during the week and a little over two hours a day looking at screens on the weekends. Parents, on the other hand, spend slightly more time viewing screens: they spend two hours per day looking at screens during the week and a little over two and a half hours a day on the weekends.

Additionally, the researchers found that the children’s screen-viewing habits were manipulated by several factors, of which included parents using screen-time as a reward. Most parents said they used screen-time to control their children’s behavior, particularly on the weekends. This helps to explain the jump in screen-time that was seen on the weekends. In addition, the more time a parent spent viewing a screen, the more the children spent in front of screens—especially with mothers. Finally, the study also found that the children who were granted screen-time during mealtime also spent more time overall viewing screens.

In summary, the media habits of both mothers and fathers have a significant effect on their children’s media habits. And any interventions directed at cutting back on children’s screen-time should consider both parents’ media habits.


  • This is one of the first studies to focus on the effects of mobile media as well as TV exposure on children, as they directly relate to the child’s parents’ media habits; this implores the need of further research with the same focus of this study.
  • This study relied on secondary data analysis; while there are advantages of using secondary data, there are two big disadvantages, which are validity and reliability. The researchers used preexisting data and did not have control over the variables or measures.

Tang, L., Darlington, G., Ma, D., & Haines, J. (2018, December 3). Mothers’ and fathers’ media parenting practices associated with young children’s screen-time: a cross-sectional study. BMC Obesity. Retrieved January 10, 2019 from https://bmcobes.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40608-018-0214-4

University of Guelph. (2019, January 9). Controlling children’s behavior with screen time leads to more screen time, study reveals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 11, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190109114811.htm