For Carmen Mazariegos, limiting her daughters' television time has been as important in the United States as in her native Guatemala, although she admits it's easier here because of the number of educational activities available for children.
"The most they watch during the week is two hours, and on the weekend they watch about three hours a day," said the mother of three girls ages 6, 9 and 10, who arrived in Chattanooga about a year and a half ago.
In general, however, black and Hispanic children spend far more time with media, especially television and video games, than white children do, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation study.
TOTAL MEDIA EXPOSURE
2009 vs. 2004
* White: 8 hours 36 minutes vs. 7 hours 58 minutes
* Black: 12 hours 59 minutes vs. 10 hours 10 minutes
* Hispanic: 13 hours vs. 8 hours 52 minutes
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, "Media in the Lives of 8-to-18-year-olds."
The report is based on a nationally representative survey of 2,002 3rd-12th grade students, ages 8-18, including a subsample of 702 respondents who also volunteered to complete seven-day media use diaries. The study was conducted from October 20, 2008, through May 7, 2009.
"Differences in media use in relation to race and ethnicity are even more pronounced, and they hold up after controlling for other demographic factors such as age, parent education, or whether the child is from a single or two-parent family," the study states.
Hispanic and black youths average about 13 hours of media exposure daily, compared to just 8 1/2 hours among whites, the study found.
But it's not so much that there is more interest in watching television, said Dr. Barbara Medley, sociology professor at UTC. She said it may be a result of having less parental supervision.
"For working parents who are trying to make sure ends are met ... TV becomes a baby sitter," she said.
"In white households we find that because the income level tends to be higher, you have parents being home more in the evening because of the nature of their work, and you also have a greater number of households with a parent that might be home all the time," she said.
The fact that many minority households are managed by single working women also can be a major contributing factor, said Dr. Felicia McGhee-Hilt, who teaches in the communication department at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
"When you are talking about a single woman who has a job, has kids, gets home, she's trying to get dinner on the table, hopefully do homework with the kid, so while she is trying to do and juggle all these activities I suspect that's where we are seeing that media usage," Dr. McGhee-Hilt said.
Although Mrs. Mazariegos, who was a teacher in Guatemala, works night shifts, her husband usually is at home when she is not, she said.
Generally, Dr. Medley said, "too much media exposure can mean that the child is not engaged in learning activities that could contribute to (better grades).
"Hence some part of the achievement gap between segments of the minority community and the rest of the population may be attributable to this," she said.
However, there needs to more research done to fully make that connection, according to the study and Dr. Medley.
It also depends on what the children are watching, she said.
"If a child watches a lot of TV, but watches mostly educational or instructional programs, there can be a positive benefit. From this standpoint, parent monitoring of what a child watches is probably more important than the actual amount of TV watched," she said.
Solomon Hatch has a 5-year-old boy, and the fact that his wife is able to stay at home while he works has been very beneficial to limiting the amount of time his son spends watching television or playing video games, he said.
"We try to do other activities with him, play Uno or some other card game," Mr. Hatch said. "We also try to buy him only educational video games."
Even when he was growing up with a single mother who worked two jobs, he kept himself busy with sports, so there wasn't much time to watch television, Mr. Hatch said.
"The more you get your kids involved with, the less time they have to watch television or play video games," he said.