Are Parents To Blame If Their Children Are Couch Potatoes?

The answer is “Yes,” according to two studies published recently in the journal Early Child Development and Care.

Researchers at Oregon State University confirmed that young children in this country are increasingly sedentary, spending too much time sitting and looking at electronic screens. But they have also found that parents play a major factor in whether young children are on the move.

It’s not enough to tell your children to get outside, you need to get out there with them!

In one study, Oregon State University researchers (OSU) looked at 200 families with children ages 2 to 4 to determine how parenting style affects children’s physical-activity levels.


Overall, they found that children who had “neglectful” parents, or ones who weren’t home often and self-reported spending less time with their kids, were getting 30 minutes more screen time on an average each week day.

More disturbing to lead author David Schary – all of the children ages 2 to 4 were sitting more than several hours per day.

“Across all parenting styles, we saw anywhere from four to five hours a day of sedentary activity,” he said. “This is waking hours not including naps or feeding. Some parents counted quiet play – sitting and coloring, working on a puzzle, etc. – as a positive activity, but this is an age where movement is essential.”

In a separate study, Schary, a doctoral student in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU, and Bradley Cardinal, a professor of social psychology of physical activity at OSU, looked at the same group of participants and asked about ways parent support and promote active play. They found that parents who actively played with their kids had the most impact, but that any level of encouragement, even just watching their child play or driving them to an activity – made a difference.

Interestingly parents who were less participatory during the week days did not make up for it during the weekends. Instead, sedentary time increased nearly one hour each weekend day.

Seems like common sense, right? If you want your kids to value exercise and the great outdoors, nothing sends a stronger message than if they see their parents or caregivers outside having fun. Actions really do speak much louder than words.

Go ahead: play in the dirt, roll down a grassy bank, find slimy slugs after the rain, take a walk on the beach. Enthusiasm is contagious! As experts agree, having preschoolers be active is imperative for establishing healthy, active lifestyle patterns, self-awareness, social acceptance, and even brain and cognitive development.”

What do you think?


Related Stories

Doctors Recommend Three Hours; Daily Exercise For Young Kids

Preschoolers Need To Get Outside And Play!

Recess Returns To Chicago Schools!



Natasha Salgado
Past Member 5 years ago

Definitely parents of couch potatoes and tech heads are totally guilty. They should take time and enjoy the outdoor activities with their children. They should also be charged and fined if their kids balloon to an unacceptable size!!!!

Fiona T.
Past Member 5 years ago

Characteristics count though parents' influence on them is substantial

Dainzu Arroyo
Dainy Arroyo5 years ago

Sure we are responsible of our children, we must be responsible of their healthy development

Michael Wecke
Michael Wecke5 years ago

Of course parents are to blame. Not having the energy after work to go outside with children seems a valid excuse. Interestingly enough there are strong schools of thought that argue that especially when you are tired, listless, apathetic you should get going and get active, as this actually increases energy levels, increases serotonin levels and thus leads to a better feel-good factor AND kids get outside and don't become Couch Potatoes.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

so much duh in one article

Terry Vanderbush
Terry V5 years ago


Jane R.
Jane R5 years ago

Yes they are!! Even working parents have some free time. How do they spend it? Sitting in front of the TV or computer! Instead, they should take their kids to the park or just get outside and play catch, or toss a frisby anything to get the kids and theirselves some exercize!!
Surely the parents can take 30 minutes an evening to do this. And on weekends maybe 45 minutes. It would benefit them all.

Mary B.
Mary B5 years ago

Are businesses to blame if they don't pay enough for parents to hire a nanny to make sure the kids get out enough while the parents are working?

Sandy Erickson
Sandy Erickson5 years ago


Debbie L.
Debbie Lim5 years ago

When I was young, we were always outside even if our parents were at work most of the time. Watching TV was only at night for a little bit. It's sad to see all the empty parks nowadays.