January 1997

The Use of Television in 2- to 8-Year-Old Children and the Attitude of Parents About Such Use

Author Affiliations

From the Mother-Child Territorial Service (Drs Valerio, Dal Zio, and Zacchello), the Pediatric Department (Dr Vianello), and the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine (Dr Amodio), University of Padova, Padova, Italy.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151(1):22-26. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1997.02170380026004

Background:  It has been recognized that uncontrolled use of television (TV) in childhood is potentially harmful. Few data about family habits regarding TV use are available.

Objective:  To evaluate the quantitative-qualitative TV viewing habits of children and the relationship between the attitudes of parents about TV programs and TV use by their children.

Design:  Descriptive study.

Setting:  General pediatric community.

Participants:  A convenience sample. All the parents of the children attending the nursery school, kindergarten, and the first 2 years of elementary school in a neighborhood of Padova, a city in northern Italy. The parents of 156 children (95%) responded.

Results:  Nine percent of the children viewed TV for more than 3 hours per day, and 50% of the children viewed TV for 1 to 3 hours per day. A range of TV programs were viewed. Parents were involved in the TV use of their children; the most frequent way was by prohibiting some programs. The attitudinal profiles of the parents about the contents and the values of TV messages were notably associated with different kinds of TV use. A high score (ie, an optimistic judgment) on the attitudinal profile about the contents of TV programs was significantly associated with greater quantitative (P<.04), uncritical exposure (P<.05) of children to TV messages. A high score (ie, severe judgement) on the attitudinal profile regarding the values of TV programs was associated with qualitatively better exposure to TV (P<.05) and greater selectivity of programs watched (P<.05). In the parents, a critical attitude seemed to have a direct relationship with a higher social and educational level.

Conclusions:  This pilot study suggests that the attitude of parents about TV may influence the TV viewing habits of children. A broader study that accounts for this factor and other factors that influence TV use is necessary to better understand the reasons for the excessive exposure of children to TV.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151:22-26.