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Title: Parents’ use of television as a babysitter for young children
Authors: Beyens, Ine ×
Eggermont, Steven #
Issue Date: Feb-2012
Conference: Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap location:Leuven, Belgium date:9-10 February 2012
Abstract: Research found that parents have their children watch television for several reasons (Rideout & Hamel, 2006; Zimmerman, Christakis, & Meltzoff, 2007). Parents might put their children in front of the television to calm them down or to accompany children’s bedtime. One often-heard reason among parents is to babysit the children (Evans, Jordan, & Horner, 2011; Götz, Bachmann, & Hofmann, 2007). According to several studies, parents sometimes sit their child down in front of the television set when they need something get done or when they are temporarily not able to supervise their child (Rideout & Hamel, 2006; Zimmerman et al., 2007). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that television should not be used as an electronic babysitter for young children (AAP, 1999). However, little research has examined parents’ use of television as a babysitter as predictor of children’s time spent watching television. Therefore, this study investigates the associations between parent and child factors, the use of television as a babysitter and children’s viewing time.
Data from 844 parents of children between the ages of 6 months and 6 years are reported. An integrative model was constructed and structural-equation modeling was performed to assess the relationships between parent and child factors, the use of television as a babysitter, and children’s television viewing time. Moderator analyses were conducted by means of multigroup analysis to investigate whether parental education and parental attitude toward television would moderate the associations. All analyses were performed using AMOS 19.
Results show that almost half of the parents (48,1%) admitted to using television for their child to get things done on their own. More than one third of parents (36,2%) sometimes used television as a babysitter while they prepared meals; three out of ten parents (31,3%) indicated to do this often or very often. Additionally, more than a quarter of parents (26,5%) indicated
that they sometimes sat their child in front of the television to get dressed themselves; 14,1% of parents often or very often used television for their child while getting dressed. Finally, almost four out of ten parents (37,3%) sometimes and another 12,4% of parents often or very often used television for their child while cleaning.
Structural-equation modeling revealed that using television as a babysitter predicted increased time spent watching television, 𝛽 = .173, B = 8.707, SE = 1.868, p<.001. The more parents used television to replace parental supervision, the more television children watched. Parents’ attitude toward television emerged as best predictor of using television as a babysitter, 𝛽 = .256, B = .391, SE = .074, p<.001, indicating that parents with strong positive attitudes toward television tended to use television more often as a babysitter. As such, parents’ attitude toward television had a direct positive effect on the time children spent watching television, 𝛽 = .153, B = 11.762, SE = 2.885, p<.001, as well as an indirect effect, by directly predicting the use of television as a babysitter. Parents’ time spent watching television was the best predictor of the time children spent watching television, 𝛽 = .381, B = 1.141, SE = .094, p<.001.
Both parental attitudes toward television and parental education moderated the effect of using television as a babysitter. First, moderator analyses revealed that the effect of using television as a babysitter on the time children spent watching television was stronger among children whose parents had strong positive attitudes toward child television viewing, 𝛽 = .300, B = 16.805, SE = 3.017, p<.001. The relationship between using television as a babysitter and time spent watching television just failed to reach significance within the group of children whose parents had little positive attitudes toward television, 𝛽 = .102, B = 4.077, SE = 2.133, p=.056. Second, moderator analyses demonstrated that the impact of using television as a
babysitter was moderated by parental education. Surprisingly, using television as a babysitter only was a predictor of children’s viewing time among children of parents with high education (undergraduate education, 𝛽 = .254, B = 12.140, SE = 2.910, p<.001; graduate education, 𝛽 = .362, B = 13.956, SE = 3.265, p<.001), but not among children of parents with low education (no education or high school education, 𝛽 = .012, B = .641, SE = 3.481, p=.854). The more educated parents were, the more television as babysitter led to increased viewing among children. These findings indicate that children of parents with strong positive attitudes toward television and children of parents with high education are at greater risk for the impact of using television as a babysitter.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: AMa
Appears in Collections:Leuven School for Mass Communication Research
Formerly "Subfaculteit Antwerpen/Taal & Communicatie - TM A"
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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