Warning—Television viewing may harm your child’s health: Parent perceptions of early childhood viewing habits

Warning—Television viewing may harm your child’s health:
Parent perceptions of early childhood viewing habits

Susanne Garvis
Donna Pendergast
Griffith University

IN 2009, THE AUSTRALIAN Government introduced the Get Up and Grow (Commonwealth Government, 2009) guidelines for healthy eating and exercise in early childhood as one element of a range of initiatives aiming to curb childhood obesity, a problem affecting an increasing proportion of Australia children. Included in the policy recommendations are banning children from watching television until they turn two; and limiting viewing to one hour a day for those aged between two and five years. These recommendations represent a considerable shift in the reported average viewing practices for these age groups, providing an opportunity for community comment.

In 2009, the article ‘Childhood policy straight out of fantasyland’ (Edgar, 2009) appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald website. The article was a critique of the Get Up and Grow recommendations. Most articles on the SMH website have an anonymous blog post attached where readers can post their comments. Data was collected from this blog, and responses where the identity of the respondent as a parent was either implicitly or explicitly stated were used and the text analysed. Six themes were generated from the data: television as an educator; television as a babysitter; television as a motivator for increasing physical exercise; policy as a challenge to parental rights; age appropriateness; and viewing standards. The responses provide insights into children’s viewing habits and glimpses of the way television is used in the family household. Findings also reveal that parents accept that television programs labelled as ‘educational’ are a positive influence on learning for their child, and do not scrutinise the content beyond this assumption.

Australasian Journal of Early Childhood – Volume 36 No 4 December 2011

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Vol. 36 No 4 December 2011
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