Researchers say if parents want to successfully cut back on their child’s screen-time, they must first cut back on screen-time themselves | I Love Science

Researchers say if parents want to successfully cut back on their child’s screen-time, they must first cut back on screen-time themselves

  • New research says that if parents want their children to practice moderation in regards to consuming media they need to lead by example and cut back on their own screen time.
  • Children are spending more time on their iPads and sitting in front of the television. This, in turn, leads to an increased probability of childhood obesity putting children at a higher likelihood of being obese as an adult.
  • Researchers wanted to better understand how parents media usage affect their children media habits.
  • A study from the University of Guelph sought to understand “Mothers’ and fathers’ media parenting practices associated with young children’s screen-time”. The findings were published in BMC Obesity concluding that children media habits are directly connected to their parent’s screen time. Therefore, if parents intend to reduce the time their child spends glued to a screen the parent needs to disconnect as well.
  • This study uses secondary data analysis. This helped the researchers to better understand the specifics of how much time children and parents spent viewing screens and the correlation of the two.

In brief, the children’s media habits mirrored their parents. Therefore, if the parent spent a considerable amount of time on their devices the children spent just as much time in front of a screen as well. Children are greatly influenced by the example their parents set so if parents hope to change their children habits they need to adjust their own.


The researchers want to better understand how children screen time is affected by their parent’s media habits because the more time a child spends looking at a screen the likelihood of them becoming obese increases.

Earlier studies focused solely on the amount of time the mother spent viewing television excluding the TV viewing habits of the father and new popular devices such as Ipads. This study adds to research because it examines both the mother and father’s media habits and introduces devices are becoming increasingly popular in households.


The researchers used secondary data in which the sample size of this study included 62 children between the age of 18 months and 5 years of age. Also included in this study is, 64 parents in total including 39 mothers and 25 fathers. In order to examine the the parent’s media habits, the children’s screen-viewing time and establish a correlation, the parents were asked a series of general questions along the line of how they regulate their kids screen time, when they allow screen time and whether or not they use their devices in front of their children.  


The findings were that during the week children generally spend an hour and a half a day looking at screens and on the weekends have about two hours of screen time. Parents spend more time viewing screens. During the week they spend two hours a day on their devices and during the weekends they spend about two and a half hours viewing screens.    

Researchers also found that parents used screen time as a reward to control their child’s behavior which would make sense as to why screen viewing time increased on the weekend. In addition, the researcher uncovered that the more time a parent spent viewing screens the more time the child spent viewing screens- particularly with mothers. The study found that children that were allowed screen-time while eating spent more time viewing screens.

In short, both mother and father’s media habits significantly influence the media habits of their child.  If the parents want their child to cut back on screen time then they should do the same.


  • This is one of the first studies to examine the effects of mobile media and TV exposure in relation to the child’s parents habits.
  • The study used secondary data which presents the problem of validity and reliability. This study also used pre-existing data so the researchers did not have control of the measures and variables.

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