Parents are more stressed if their kids watch TV, study finds

Picture: Getty Images
Picture: Getty Images 

We've all done it – when you need a quick break to hang the washing out or have a shower in peace, the TV can be a lifeline. 

But new research from the University of Arizona has found that the quick reprieve those few minutes of The Wiggles or cartoons provide may end up costing us in the long run.

The study found that parents who regularly allow their kids some TV time end up more stressed due to the amount of advertising kids will view along with their program.

This, they found, could lead to greater pester power from kids on shopping trips. 

The study, published in the International Journal of Advertising, looked at the potential effects a child's TV viewing could have on the stress level of their parents.

The results were based on questions put to 433 parents of kids aged two-12 – who have less independent purchasing power and are likely to accompany parents on shopping trips.

Questions were asked about how much TV their children watched, what their communication style was, how often their child asks for specific products while shopping, their stress levels and their child's coercive behaviours.

Lead study author and assistant professor at UArizona Matthew Lapierre said the more advertising kids viewed, the more they asked for, which led to more conflict.

"What we haven't looked at before is what the potential effect is on parents. We know kids ask for things, we know it leads to conflict, but we wanted to ask the next question: Could this be contributing to parents' overall stress'?," he was quoted in Science Daily


For the study, researchers assessed the effectiveness of three types of conversations around consumerism between parents and their children.

The first, 'collaborative communication' was where parents invited children to discuss any family purchases. The second, 'control communication', was where decision lay solely with the parents. The third, 'advertising communication' was where parents discussed advertising ploys with their kids.

The collaborative style was found to generate the least parent stress – however this was found ot increase in line with an increase of a child's ability for 'coercive behaviours' such as whining tantrums.

Both the control and the advertising styles were associated with a higher degree of coercive behaviour from kids.

"Overall, we found that collaborative communication between parents and children was a better strategy for reducing stress in parents. However, this communicative strategy shows diminishing returns when children ask for more products or engage in more consumer conflict with parents," said study co-author Eunjoo Choi.

Researches suggested a way to counter this was to reduce the amount of screen time for children, as well as discussing consumerism with kids, particularly as the holiday season approached.

They also advised parents to be aware of other advertising ploys, such as product placement and integrated branding.

Lapierre also noted that advertising aimed at children was particularly persuasive, often using bright colours and upbeat music and that young children did not have the ability to discern its intent.

According to the World Health Organisation, screen time should be limited. It's not recommended for infants aged under 1 year and for those aged two and up, should be no more than one hour. 

Rasing Children advise creating "family rules" around screen time and to set limits and expectations for older children.