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Kids of Spanish-speaking Hispanic moms watch less TV

February 1, 2010 |  4:13 pm

Shopper When it comes to a kid's television-viewing habits, the mom's language can matter.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine surveyed 1,347 women who had children ages 35 months to 4 years to assess just how much time the kids spent in front on the tube. They knew that young children of white mothers and young children of Hispanic mothers watched similar amounts of TV (we'll go out on a limb here and say "too much"), but they seemed to think there might be some variables to be explored within those numbers and perhaps, down the road, interventions to be found.

They were right on the former. The latter remains to be seen. The researchers found that kids of English-speaking Hispanic moms and kids of Spanish-speaking Hispanic moms watched about the same amount of TV during their first year (yes, yes, infants watching any TV...). But by the second and third years, children of the English-speaking moms watched more, a lot more.

Here's the abstract, published online today in the February issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. And the news release, from EurekAlert.

Maybe TV simply is less important to Spanish-speaking moms, the researchers speculated, or maybe there are fewer Spanish-language shows for toddlers.

Regardless, they conclude: "These findings highlight the need to further understand sociocultural factors that influence television viewing habits in young Hispanic children. Interventionists should consider such factors when designing interventions targeting television viewing in young Hispanic children. Additionally, these findings emphasize the need for researchers to appreciate the heterogeneity of the Hispanic population when describing health behaviors and outcomes in this population."

And if you're wondering why this is relevant, the researchers point out in the study's introduction: "Excessive television viewing in early childhood is associated with a multitude of negative health outcomes, including obesity, attention problems, and sleep troubles. ... Additionally, Hispanic children face disparities in many health outcomes,18 some of which may be associated with early television habits."

And check out these recent stories on TV viewing.

- A new way to think about sedentary behavior

- Watching TV shortens life span, study finds (Or, as the subheads more accurately points out: "Australian researchers find that each hour a day spent in front of television is linked with an 18% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and an 11% greater risk of all causes of death.")

- More screen time may mean less lean time

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: If adults can't look away, it seems unlikely kids would be able to do so. Credit: Ian Waldie / Bloomberg News

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Comments (13)

Interesting article. As a son of a hispanic-spanish speaking family I noticed that I , too, watched much less tv than many of my other peers my age. I think there's a definate cultural link to this. In a lot of Latin American countries kids and youth spend most of their recreational time socializing and playing games / sports with other kids their age while outdoors. Hispanic culture is very family based and family / friend gatherings happen quite a bit. Also, it isn't all to uncommon to usually find the women socializing with their neighbors, cooking, or doing housework on their recreational time, while most men are usually doing some sort of manual or home repair labor (as many latin american countries are agriculturally based). I wouldn't be surprised if there would be a similar result with other immigrant groups ie. Africans, Indians etc..

While excessive television watching might be associated with negative health outcomes, watching English language television is probably associated with doing well in school. Young Hispanic children who watch a lot of English language television are less likely to be English Language Learners, so will learn to read in English much more quickly than those who watch no English language television and a limited amount of Spanish television.

Did the researchers compare high school graduation rates between those who watched English language television and those who watched Spanish language television as young children? I doubt it.

Gosh this was a little hard to read and not really full of much info which was buried in alot of nonwords. Not New York Times standard newswriting, that's for sure. But the headline was interesting.

Readers dont want to wade thru an introduction like this: Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine surveyed 1,347 women who had children ages 35 months to 4 years to assess just how much time the kids spent in front on the tube.

And this was pretty lame: They were right on the former. The latter remains to be seen.

I know the reason why children of spanish speaking moms watch less television - hispanic moms love their "novelas" and unless you want to get hit by the "chancla" (hispanic slipper) you will not even think about changing the channel! No kidding.

Just wanted to say Nina I totally know what you mean! That was great!! :)

if they watch less TV than ENGLISH speaking kids what are they doing? why is the dropout rate amoung these kids so high, proverty levels so high, why are they stuggling with ENGLISH after 7 years of schooling and the parents after 10-15 years still can not communicate in ENGLISH with the teachers or doctors..maybe they should be watching shows like Sesame Street, my good friend learned how to speak ENGLISH by watching cartoons and public the way she came from the Phillipines and is now a Doctor

They did not say watching less TV is the solution to poverty or the way to get good grades.
If your friend became a doctor it wasn't thanks to TV. I believe most students do not have a lot free time to watch TV. Your comment is just ridiculous.

Of course by the second comment an anti-latino post is made. TV does not help you learn English. Get real!

The reasons for this is as follows:

1. Spanish language televisions sucks and is geared towards adults.

2. Not enough emphasis is made in helping young Hispanic kids learn English, as they would if they were at home watching Seasame Street.

By the way, it's okay to criticize deficiencies in a culture. Not every comment has to be positive because not everything that's going on in our society is positive.

Frank Talk,

I lived in Mexico for some time.

There's A LOT of screwed up stuff happening in Mexican society right now. It's not anti-Latino to note that fact, nor is it racist to state that we, as Americans, don't want to import those dysfunctions into American society. There's nothing wrong with that.

My Grandparents came from third-world poverty. When they became Americans they let go of that part of their history. They still embraced their heritage, but they also embraced becoming "Americans." I think it is reasonable for every citizen to demand that of our immigrants.

I basically grew up in a Spanish speaking household..... I was born a few short months after my mother came to this country. She stayed home to raise me and my brother, while my English-speaking father worked. So, until I started school, my days were spent in Spanish, while my evenings were in English. My mother wanted to learn English, too, so she watched Sesame Street with us so that we could all learn English together!

I went on to excel in school. I was allowed to "skip" a grade because I was so advanced I graduated in the top 25% of my high school, and will soon earn my Bachelor's degree from Cal State Northridge.

My mother still has an accent, but he has a great command of the English language, and has no problem watching English language TV with us. She became a citizen in 1999.

So to all the naysayers: YES, Sesame Street does a very effective job at teaching English!!!

To all the naysayers:

I would be interested to know about other immigrants groups like those from Asia, eastern Europe, Middle east and African. How do they deviate and how other culture advance in the US system. This study is quite narrow in scope. The survey should divide parent group into education level and so forth. How kids advance in school comes from encouragement at home not TV.



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