Press Releases

2001 Releases

Research Highlights Ways Parents Can Reduce Children's TV Viewing Time

For immediate release:  September 24, 2001 

Boston, MA — Access to television has a direct association with children’s hours of viewing and school-related activity, according to a study from the Harvard School of Public Health. Children who do not have a television set in their bedroom spend about forty minutes less per day watching TV or playing video and computer games than children who do and read or do homework about twenty minutes more per day if their parents also set limits on television viewing. The study results are published in the September/October issue of Ambulatory Pediatrics.

The study, which analyzed data from nearly 1,200 sixth and seventh graders from 10 Boston-area middle schools, found that the students averaged approximately three hours and 20 minutes per day of viewing time, including playing computer/video games, and spent an average of one hour and 36 minutes per day reading or doing homework.

More than half (54 percent) of the respondents had a television set in their bedroom and 42 percent reported that their parents did not set limits on the amount of television they could watch. Students who regularly had dinner with their family spent half an hour less per day watching TV or playing computer/video games compared to students who rarely dined daily with their family.

Jean Wiecha, Deputy Director of the Harvard Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity at the Harvard School of Public Health, said: "The findings in our study show that access to television increases use, and helps identify ways parents can reduce the time their children spend in front of the television or playing computer games. The study also supports American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations to make a child’s bedroom media-free. These findings are important because high television use is associated with childhood obesity, which is epidemic in the US today."

The study was supported in part by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and from the Prevention Research Center’s Cooperative Agreement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For further information, please contact:

Robin Herman  
Office of Communications  
Harvard School of Public Health  
677 Huntington Avenue  
Boston, MA 02115  
Phone: 617-432-4752  
Email: rherman@hsph.harvard.edu