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Cross-sectional associations between the screen-time of parents and young children: differences by parent and child gender and day of the week

Russell Jago1*, Janice L Thompson2, Simon J Sebire1, Lesley Wood1, Laura Pool1, Jesmond Zahra1 and Deborah A Lawlor34

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Exercise, Nutrition & Health Sciences, School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol, 8 Priory Road, Bristol BS8 1TZ, England

2 School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, England

3 MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol, Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol BS8 2BN, England

4 School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Canynge Hall, Whiteladies Road, Bristol BS8 2PS, England

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2014, 11:54  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-11-54

Published: 23 April 2014



Greater time spent screen-viewing (SV) has been linked to adverse health outcomes. The aim of this study was to examine whether parental SV time is associated with child SV time on week and weekend days.


Cross-sectional survey of 1078 children aged 5–6 and at least 1 parent. Child and parent SV was reported for weekday and weekend days. Logistic regression examined whether parental SV time was associated with child SV time, with separate analyses for mothers and fathers and interaction terms for child gender.


12% of boys, 8% of girls and 30% of mothers and fathers watched ≥2 hours of TV each weekday. On a weekend day, 45% of boys, 43% of girls, 53% of mothers and 57% of fathers spent ≥2 hours watching TV. Where parents exceeded 2 hours TV-watching per weekday, children were 3.4 times more likely to spend ≥ 2 hours TV-watching if their father exceeded the threshold with odds of 3.7 for mothers. At weekends, daughters of fathers who exceeded 2 hours watching TV were over twice as likely as sons to exceed this level. Evidence that parent time spent using computers was associated with child computer use was also strongest between fathers and daughters (vs. sons) (OR 3.5 vs. 1.0, p interaction = 0.027).


Strong associations were observed between parent and child SV and patterns were different for weekdays versus weekend days. Results show that time spent SV for both parents is strongly associated with child SV, highlighting the need for interventions targeting both parents and children.