February 3, 2010 / 9:15 PM / 10 years ago

Youngsters in Spanish-speaking homes watch less TV

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Young Latino children whose mothers speak Spanish watch less television than their peers with English-speaking moms, a new study shows.

The findings have important implications for efforts aimed at helping reduce TV watching among Latino kids, Dr. Darcy A. Thompson of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, an investigator on the study, told Reuters Health. But first, she said, further investigation is needed to understand the reasons behind the differences in TV watching patterns she and her colleagues observed.

Thompson and her team looked at data for the year 2000 from the National Survey of Early Childhood Health on 1,347 mothers of children four to 35 months old to examine whether language might be linked to TV habits. About half of the study participants were white; 21 percent were English-speaking Latinas; and 27 percent were Spanish-speaking Latinas.

While children of English- or Spanish-speaking Latinas watched about the same amount of TV up until they were a year old (around an hour a day), differences emerged in older children.

Among kids between one and two years old, those with Spanish-speaking mothers watched less than an hour and a half of television daily, a little less than children of white moms, while the children of English-speaking Latinas watched around 2 hours a day.

For two- to three-year-olds, the children of Spanish-speaking Latinas still spent the least time in front of the TV (less than two hours), while children of English-speaking Latinas watched the most TV (nearly three hours). White kids fell in the middle.

There are a multitude of explanations for the differences between English- and Spanish-speaking households in TV time, Thompson and her team note in their report in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. There might be less programing available in Spanish for young kids, for example, although there’s also evidence that some Latino families view watching English-language TV as a way for their children to improve their language skills.

But it’s also important to understand, Thompson said in an interview, that cultural values and language aren’t the only factors likely to be at play here, and that Americans of Hispanic heritage are not a homogenous group. “You can’t clump Latinos all together in one group for many different reasons,” she added. “Immigration, acculturation, and social context all play a different role.”

Other factors to consider when thinking about how to design targeted interventions to help parents limit TV time, she added, include country of origin, social context, and the “everyday realities of family life these days.”

SOURCE: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, February 2010.

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