OBJECTIVES. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children over age 2 years spend ≤2 hours per day with screen media, because excessive viewing has been linked to a plethora of physical, academic, and behavioral problems. The primary goal of this study was to qualitatively explore how a recommendation to limit television viewing might be received and responded to by a diverse sample of parents and their school-age children.

METHODS. The study collected background data about media use, gathered a household media inventory, and conducted in-depth individual and small group interviews with 180 parents and children ages 6 to 13 years old.

RESULTS. Most of the children reported spending ∼3 hours per day watching television. The average home in this sample had 4 television sets; nearly two thirds had a television in the child's bedroom, and nearly half had a television set in the kitchen or dining room. Although virtually all of the parents reported having guidelines for children's television viewing, few had rules restricting the time children spend watching television. Data from this exploratory study suggest several potential barriers to implementing a 2-hour limit, including: parents' need to use television as a safe and affordable distraction, parents' own heavy television viewing patterns, the role that television plays in the family's day-to-day routine, and a belief that children should spend their weekend leisure time as they wish. Interviews revealed that for many of these families there is a lack of concern that television viewing is a problem for their child, and there remains confusion about the boundaries of the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

CONCLUSIONS. Parents in this study expressed interest in taking steps toward reducing children's television time but also uncertainty about how to go about doing so. Results suggest possible strategies to reduce the amount of time children spend in front of the screen.

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