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.