The amount of time young kids spend sitting in front of a screen (be it TV, computer, or smart phone) may have more to do with the kind of parents they have than the kind of gadgets and games those parents provide.
Almost all kids sit too much, but studies out online June 21 in the journal Early Child Development and Care found those whose parents were more involved were active around 30 minutes more a day than those whose caregivers spent less time with their kids.
Researchers from Oregon State University found that among the 200 families they studied, all of the kids ages 2 to 4 were sitting around four to five hours a day – a fact the authors called “disturbing.” But those whose parents reported being away from home more, and less involved with their children, spent an average of 30 minutes longer watching TV, playing video games or otherwise engaging in “screen time.” And these parents didn’t make up for weekday absence with extra play on weekends. In fact, their kids spent around one our of additional couch potato time on weekend days.
It might not sound like much, but over the course of a week it means these children spent four to five more hours in front of screens than kids with more involved parents did.
Children are naturally active early in life, but become less active once they enter school. So experts say these early years are an important time to establish good habits.
When the researchers talked with parents whose children were more active, they found that these parents were most likely to actively play with their children. But any level of encouragement to move – whether watching their child play, or driving them to the park or another activity – helped counteract the lure of the screen.