Young children of Hispanic mothers whose dominant language is Spanish
spend less time in front of the TV than children whose mothers speak
mostly English, according to research led by investigators at Johns
Hopkins Children's Center and published in the February issue of
Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.
Although the study was not designed to answer why the children of
Spanish-speaking mothers watch less TV, the researchers believe it
might be a reflection of a cultural perception of the value of
television. Another explanation might be lack of programming targeted
at young children and toddlers on the main Spanish-language channels
Telemundo and Univision and minimal Spanish-language content on U.S. channels.
Past studies have compared the TV-viewing habits of white and
Hispanic youth, but this research is believed to be the first
analysis of variations within Hispanic households and one that points
to subtle but important differences in this population, the investigators say.
"Our findings show that what language mom speaks is a greater
predictor than ethnicity alone of how much time a young child spends
in front of the TV, a nuance that public health experts should
recognize if they are to succeed in reducing TV time among these
children," says lead investigator Darcy Thompson, M.D. M.P.H., a
pediatrician at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center..
Better understanding of the cultural, language and socioeconomic
variations within the Hispanic community can help public health
experts design more targeted public health campaigns, Thompson says.
Reducing TV time became a public health priority when recent studies
found that the more time a child spends watching TV, the more likely
she is to develop sleep disturbances, attention problems and obesity.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two
hours a day of cumulative exposure from TV and other media, including
movies, Internet, video and computer games. Hispanic children, who
make up one-fifth of all children in the United States, have the
highest obesity and overweight rates among preschoolers of all ethnic groups.
Surveying 1,332 Hispanic and white mothers and their children, ages 4
months to 3 years, the researchers found that on average, children of
English-speaking Hispanic moms spent nearly two-and-a-half hours
watching TV, compared to about 90 minutes for children with
Spanish-speaking mothers. The difference was especially pronounced in
children older than 1, with those in English-speaking Hispanic homes
spending nearly 60 percent more time watching. The difference
disappeared when researchers compared TV viewing hours among those
younger than 1.
When researchers combined children of Hispanic mothers with either
language preference and compared them to the children of white
mothers, they found that both groups spent on average about two hours
watching TV. But differences started to emerge when the researchers
compared these groups separately. One-to-two-year-olds with
English-speaking Hispanic mothers spent nearly 60 percent more time
watching TV than the children of white mothers. By ages 2 and 3,
children of white mothers appeared to catch up to children of
English-speaking Hispanic mothers, while children of Spanish-speaking
mothers spent 30 percent less time watching TV.
Co-investigators on the paper include Erica Sibinga, M.D., M.H.S.;
Jacky Jennings, Ph.D., M.P.H; Megan Bair-Merritt, M.D., M.S.C.E., all
of Johns Hopkins; and Dimitri Christakis, M.D., M.P.H., of the
University of Washington.
The research was funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
and by the Eunice Shriver National Institute of Child Health and
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Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine