Children's Violent Television Viewing: Are Parents Monitoring?

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Children's Violent Television Viewing: Are Parents Monitoring? Tina L. Cheng, MD, MPH*‡§; Ruth A. Brenner, MD, MPH; Joseph L. Wright, MD, MPH‡§¶; Hari Cheryl Sachs, MD#; Patricia Moyer, BS; and Malla R. Rao, MEngg, DrPH ABSTRACT. Objective. Violent media exposure has

been associated with aggressive behavior, and it has been
suggested that child health professionals counsel families
on limiting exposure. Effective violence prevention
counseling requires an understanding of norms regarding
parental attitudes, practices, and influencing factors.
Both theories of reasoned action and planned behavior
emphasize that subjective norms and attitudes affect
people's perceptions and intended behavior. Few data
exist on violent television viewing and monitoring from
a cross-section of families. By understanding the spectrum
of parental attitudes, community-sensitive interventions
for violence prevention can be developed. The
objective of this study was to assess attitudes about and
monitoring of violent television viewing from the perspective of parents.
Methods. An anonymous self-report assisted survey
was administered to a convenience sample of parents/
guardians who visited child health providers at 3 sites: an
urban children's hospital clinic, an urban managed care
clinic, and a suburban private practice. The parent questionnaire included questions on child-rearing attitudes
and practices and sociodemographic information.
Results. A total of 1004 adults who accompanied children
for health visits were recruited for the study; 922
surveys were completed (participation rate: 92%). A total
of 830 (90%) respondents were parents and had complete
child data. Of the 830 respondents, 677 had questions on
television viewing included in the survey and were the
focus of this analysis. Seventy-five percent of families
reported that their youngest child watched television. Of
these, 53% reported always limiting violent television
viewing, although 73% believed that their children
viewed television violence at least 1 time a week. Among
television viewers, 81% reported usually or always limiting
viewing of sexual content on television and 45%
reported usually or always watching television with their
youngest child. Among children who watched television,
parents reported that they spent an average of 2.6 hours
per day watching television. Limitation of television violence was associated with female parents and younger
Conclusions. There was variability in attitudes and
practices regarding television violence viewing and monitoring among parents. Attitudes and practices varied on
the basis of the age of the child and the gender of the
parent. Pediatrics 2004;114:94 –99; media violence, television viewing, violence prevention, anticipatory guidance,
parental norms.
ABBREVIATIONS. OR, odds ratio; CI, confidence interval.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has encouraged
child health professionals to be proactive
in addressing violence prevention in
child health supervision. The policy statement entitled
"The Role of the Pediatrician in Youth Violence
Prevention in Clinical Practice and at the Community
Level" suggests that health providers have an
emerging role in youth violence prevention and
management.1 Anticipatory guidance on media violence
exposure and encouraging media literacy are
examples of this role.
Effective violence prevention counseling requires
an understanding of norms regarding parental attitudes
and practices and the factors that influence
norms. The theory of planned behavior2 evolved out
of the theory of reasoned action and focuses on intentions
to act as important predictors of behavior.3
Both theories emphasize that perceptions about normative
behavior and attitudes about what others
think are associated with intended behavior.4 Although
data exist on children's media exposure, only
limited data focus specifically on violent television
viewing from...
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