Mealtime and TV


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — The average American watches more than four hours of TV each day. So it’s probably no surprise that about 66 percent of Americans regularly watch television while eating dinner. In fact, by age 65, that adds up to nine years glued to the tube. Now a new study sheds some light on why some kids and parents turn on the tube during mealtime, and what bad habits they can avoid down the road.

A new study examines which children and parents may be more likely to watch TV while they’re eating. Researchers followed 220 moms and kids for several years. They found children who had challenging temperaments at the beginning of the study were more likely to watch TV during mealtime two years later. The study also found parenting practices may have an effect on TV watching. Children whose parents were more lax or over reactive in discipline strategies were more likely to let their kids watch TV while eating. Past research has shown this practice has been associated with future discipline problems and obesity in kids.

Social scientists recommend parents who are struggling managing mealtime should get help from other adults or older siblings to lessen the stress. Also, a behavior reward chart with stickers or non-food rewards will reinforce good dinnertime behavior.

While researchers studied low-income families, the recommendations are the same for families of all socioeconomic backgrounds. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one hour of screen time per day for children ages two to five.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Julie Marks, Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.