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Table 3 Screen time: summary of themes from new parent and preschool parent focus groups with illustrative quotes

From: Childrens physical activity and screen time: qualitative comparison of views of parents of infants and preschool children

Theme New parent groups Preschool parent groups
  N* Example quotations** N* Example quotations**
Expectations and intentions     
Television as a babysitter 3 ″I guess the only way I would see as an advantage is to stick a video on and plonk her in front of it if I had to do something for an hour. Like I think that if youre at your wits end and you havent done anything all day and shes been at you all day you just want peace for an hour, Id put her in front of the TV.″ [NP 6] 5 ″Ive used the TV as a baby sitter, Ill put my hand up and admit that. And I say thank god for TV…″ [PP 8]
     ″Thats what I find with the computer games. It creates a space for you to cook dinner or to just sit.″ [PP 9]
Positive aspects of screen time 5 ″… theres educational [TV] programs.″ [NP 5] 5 ″I like these programs because she has learnt a lot of words that I wouldnt know to teach her.″ [PP 1]
   ″Id rather them be on a computer and know how to use a computer which is pretty much part of our society, rather than play a Playstation which is just a game … In a way they have to learn computer.″ [NP 5]   ″Shell say, ″Can I go and watch this on TV?″ And Ill say, ″If you finish your dinner. Eat your dinner and off you go.″ Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt.″ [PP 1]
   ″Even things like Wiggles, they get up off their bum and they dance and sing. Like thats better in my mind than just sitting there.″ [NP 6]   ″I can get [child] to eat more easily if I stick the TV on, [and] stick the sandwiches in his hand.″ [PP 8]
   ″Computers are educational arent they? Its good if we start them early and its more interactive than TV.″[NP 1]   ″[He] can play computer games because I feel they stimulate the imagination.″ [PP 2]
   ″I think they [computers] can be educational too. The sooner they can use a computer the better for them because it is going to become their life really. Like no matter what they end up doing, theyre going to have to [use computers].″[NP 2]   
Negative aspects of screen time 2 ″Theres been a lot of research on the amount of television and the amount of hours sitting in front of computer games and childhood obesity… Hopefully our generation is starting to realise the negative impact those have now.″ [NP 6] 6 ″He watches TV in the morning a lot. Thats when all the commercials are on about McDonalds and the toys. With some of the toys, he goes ″mummy quick come and have a look. I want this toy. Buy me this toy.″[PP 1]
   ″They reckon the rise of ADD [attention deficit disorder] and all that, theyve sort of attributed to maybe that babies growing up around TVs.″ [NP 5]   ″Definitely the news, we wont have the news on when the kids are there.″[PP 9]
     ″Ill say, ″[child] are you thirsty?″ He wont even answer. He hasnt even heard me cause hes just mesmerized by the TV.″ [PP 6]
     ″Since weve discovered DVDs, if we do that first thing in the morning then shes just a different child for the rest of the day. Like if she starts off with TV, shes a vegetable for the whole day.″ [PP 7]
Balance and limit setting 5 ″Well you dont stick your kid in front of the TV for eight hours a day sort of thing. You know maybe a little bit of TV or just balance it with more activity.″ [NP 2] 6 ″Ill get them out to a park for an hour or two, run them out. So when we get home they can sit down and watch a bit of TV.″[PP 1]
   ″So again it just comes down to variety. You want them to be able to be a soccer player as well as manage the computer.″ [NP 6]   ″I keep an eye on it (computer use). I find that Ive got quite a lot of games that they do on the computer so I sort of think, shes been outside, shes run for two hours, some computer [is OK].″ [PP 7]
Strategies for limiting screen time 7   6  
Rules and limit setting 7 ″I think time is one way you can possibly strike a balance. Say you can have fifteen minutes of this, or one hour of television viewing or whatever the case might be. But really it comes down to you to actually enforce that and supervise that.″ [NP 6] 6 ″She knows how often she can spend on it [computer games]. Its not every day anyway. She might be on the computer, maybe once a week.″ [PP 1]
   ″So youve got to set rules and say, ″Okay, no television before this time in the afternoon.″ [NP 8]   ″It has to be limited by time. You have to say, almost have the timer.″ [PP 9]
   ″Set shows and a set amount of time, depending on their age.″ [NP 5]   
Monitoring of screen time 3 ″Theres a place for all of those things [TV, computer games etc.], I just think it needs to be supervised more.″ [NP 7] 2 ″If something like the war in Iraq comes on [the TV] well just turn it off.″ [PP9]
Supportive environment 3 ″Turn it off [TV or computer]. It gets removed.″ [NP 7] 6 ″I try and get him out of the house and then when we come back we dont watch TV at all.″ [PP 1]
     ″My mums got a Playstation at her place so if we go there for dinner they all want to have a shot… Weve literally had to unplug it some nights because they just want to sit there for hours.″[PP 6]
Encouraging alternatives to screen time 1 ″You can plonk them in front of a pile of books, you can plonk them in front of blocks, you can plonk them in front of a lot of things and theyll play happily.″ [NP 5] 2 ″We just get to a point where we have to turn it off and say, ″Lets get dressed and go outside for a little while. You can watch it again later on.″ And as soon as its off they forget about it.″ [PP 6]
     ″Ill just turn the TV off and Ill say, ″Okay, TVs off now. Its play time, or lets go outside, or lets read a book, or lets do something else.″ And I never had an issue with it.″ [PP 1]
Barriers to limiting screen time 4   3  
Access within the broader environment 3 ″The education system is starting to enforce more and more schools to introduce computer studies and interaction with computers. So theyre going to have that interaction whether they have that at home [or not].″ [NP 6] 2 ″They even let them take them [computers] home on weekends at primary school. My 6 year old brings it home every Friday and then they all get on it.″ [PP 2]
   ″As soon as they start school, thats it [they are exposed to screen time].″[NP 5]   ″She has a TV in her bedroom and she sits there and watches TV and eats her breakfast in bed. So, its hard trying to get her out of the bedroom.″ [PP 3]
The influence of other carers (e.g. fathers) 2 ″I cannot stand the TV being constantly on during the day and I dont want the kids watching television at breakfast at all. It really makes me cross. But my husband, hes like, ″But its normal for the cartoons to be on.″ There is that kind of conflict.″ [NP 8] 2 ″My husband, every time he goes to the video shop, he gets them DVDs and they get hooked, they want it on and on over and over again.″ [PP 1]
   ″Dad plays it [Playstation] all the time. And I dont want him to play it so I dont know what Im going to do.″[NP 5]   
   ″I have enough trouble getting my husband to do that [turn the TV off], let alone my child.″ [NP 8]   
The influence of other children engaging in screen time 2 ″If youve got another child down the track, if youve got older kids, and theyve got shows they want to watch then you cant control what the younger one are watching. Well you can but its difficult.″ [NP 5] 0  
Other commitments 1 ″I think theres another aspect to all of this discussion which is our lifestyle and whos supervising [tv and computer time]. You know a lot of parents are working so it is going to be difficult.″ [NP 6] 2 ″I think, like when you were pregnant, sometimes you have to put the video on so the others engage in that. Or if youve had a bad night. If youve been up through the night.″ [PP 9]
  1. *N refers to number of groups where theme was discussed (out of a total of 8 new parent and 8 preschool parent groups).
  2. **Quotations are referred to with the notation NP for new parent groups and PP for preschool parent groups, followed by the sequential group number.