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Original Investigation |

Protective Effects of Parental Monitoring of Children’s Media Use:  A Prospective Study

Douglas A. Gentile, PhD1; Rachel A. Reimer, PhD2; Amy I. Nathanson, PhD3; David A. Walsh, PhD4; Joey C. Eisenmann, PhD5
[+] Author Affiliations
1Department of Psychology, Iowa State University, Ames
2Des Moines University, Des Moines, Iowa
3The Ohio State University, Columbus
4Mind Positive Parenting, Minneapolis, Minnesota
5Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing
JAMA Pediatr. 2014;168(5):479-484. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.146.
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Importance  Children spend more time with electronic media than they do in any other activity, aside from sleep. Many of the negative effects that stem from media exposure may be reduced by parental monitoring of children's media use; however, there lacks a clear understanding of the mechanisms and extent of these protective effects.

Objective  To determine the prospective effects of parental monitoring of children’s media on physical, social, and academic outcomes.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Prospective cohort design. Data were collected by in-home and in-school surveys in 2 communities in Iowa and Minnesota, where 1323 third- (n = 430), fourth- (n = 446), and fifth- (n = 423) grade students participated. A primary caregiver and teachers also provided data about the student.

Interventions  Participants in the current study were recruited to participate in a social ecological model–based obesity prevention program.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Body mass index, average weekly sleep, school performance, prosocial behavior, and aggressive behavior.

Results  Structural equation modeling revealed that parental monitoring of children’s media influences children’s sleep, school performance, and prosocial and aggressive behaviors and that these effects are mediated through total screen time and exposure to media violence.

Conclusions and Relevance  Parental monitoring of media has protective effects on a wide variety of academic, social, and physical child outcomes. Pediatricians and physicians are uniquely positioned to provide scientifically based recommendations to families; encouraging parents to monitor children’s media carefully can have a wide range of health benefits for children.

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Figure 1.
Basic Cross-sectional Model of Primary Effects of Parental Media Monitoring, Controlling for Parent Education, Marital Status, Child Sex, and Minority Status

Model fit statistics: χ253 = 121.54, P < .001, Comparative fit index = 0.980, Tucker Lewis Index = 0.973, root mean square error of approximation =0 .031 (90% CI, 0.024-0.039), standard root mean square residual = 0.032. T1 indicates time 1. All represented paths are statistically significant at the following levels:aP < .05.bP < .001.

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Figure 2.
Prospective Model of Secondary and Tertiary Mediated Effects of Parental Media Monitoring, Controlling for Parent Education, Marital Status, Child Age, Child Sex, and Minority Status

Controls not shown for simplicity. Model fit statistics: χ2247 = 915.35, P < .001, Comparative fit index = 0.946, Tucker Lewis Index = 0.937, root mean square error of approximation = 0.045 (90% CI, 0.042-0.048), standard root mean square residual = 0.053. BMI indicates body mass index; TI, time 1; and T2, time 2. All represented paths are statistically significant at the following levels:aP < .05.bP < .01.cP < .001.

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