Television viewing is the most prevalent sedentary behaviour for young people in industrialised countries, and for many the most prevalent leisure time activity [1, 2]. Evidence suggests that many young people far exceed the recommended two hours per day of total screen time in front of the television alone [3–7]. Time spent watching television affects multiple aspects of child and adolescent health . High levels of television viewing are associated with negative effects on sleep, attention, interpersonal relationships  aggression, sexual behavior, substance use, disordered eating, academic difficulties , unhealthy eating and excess weight [11–15]. Furthermore, children who are high television viewers tend to remain high television viewers, relative to others over time , and high levels of television viewing in childhood are associated with health risk factors (e.g. overweight, poor cardiorespiratory fitness) in adulthood , independent of adult levels of television viewing . The development of effective strategies and interventions to prevent excessive television viewing among young people requires a detailed understanding of the determinants of this behaviour.
Although a diverse range of factors have been found to be associated with young people's television viewing [18, 19], the home environment is particularly influential. Children's health behaviours, including television viewing, evolve within the context of the home and family environment, and are influenced by parents' beliefs, attitudes and behaviours . Previous research has identified numerous pathways by which parents may shape sedentary behaviour patterns, including parental modelling, rules around sedentary behaviour, availability and accessibility of screen-based equipment in the home, and parental attitudes and beliefs. For example, recent research has shown that family television viewing, an opportunity for parental modelling, is positively associated with children's television viewing [18, 21] and that parental rules that restrict screen time are negatively associated with television viewing among children and adolescents [18, 21, 22]. Research has also shown that many young people have television sets in their bedrooms , which may be positively associated with television viewing time, particularly among older children and adolescents [18, 19, 23, 24]. Furthermore, parents with low levels of self-efficacy to influence a child's physical activity and to control child's screen time are more likely to have children who exceed screen-time recommendations [25–27].
While it appears that parents play a significant role in their child's television viewing habits, little is known about whether parents, particularly those who are concerned about their child's television viewing habits, translate their concern into action by providing supportive home environments (e.g. rules restricting screen-time behaviours, limited access to screen-based media). Ecological systems theory suggests that parenting practices and behaviours are influenced directly by forces emanating from within the individual parent (i.e. their attitudes, concerns, personality etc.) [28, 29]. Previous research has shown that parental concern for healthy eating is associated with a positive home food environment (e.g. availability of fruit and vegetables) . However, parental concerns for adolescent weight have been shown to be associated with less supportive feeding practices , parental concern about their child's physical activity levels have been shown to be associated with a less supportive home environment for physical activity , and parental concern for television viewing has been associated with an increased likelihood of children eating in front of the television . Such findings suggest that concerned parents may be aware of a problem (e.g. their child watches a lot of television), and that the impetus for parents to enact on their child's TV viewing may be operationalised in terms of concern levels. These levels of concern may be based on a personal belief about TV viewing and may also be stimulated by their child's actual viewing levels. Thus, parents who are 'concerned' about their child's physical activity and television viewing may be important and receptive targets of interventions aiming to support changes to children's behaviour. However, little is known about the home environment within families of parents who are concerned about their child's television viewing. Identifying such parents and assessing whether their concerns are reflected in supportive home environments may provide useful avenues for the development of future targeted interventions.
The current study fills a gap in the existing literature by exploring (i) associations between parental concerns about child television viewing and actual child television viewing, and (ii) associations between parental concern and the home sedentary environment among 5-6 and 10-12 year-old children.