- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2007

More American children are “on track” academically and live in homes where parents set rules on television viewing than a decade ago, according to a new federal snapshot on the well-being of children.

The Census Bureau report — the third of its kind — also shows that most children younger than 18 still eat dinner every day with their parents, said Jane Lawler Dye, co-author with Tallese Johnson of “A Child’s Day: 2003: Selected Indicators of Child Well-Being,” released today.

According to the report, 79 percent of children 5 and younger, 73 percent of children 6 to 11 and 58 percent of children 12 to 17 had dinner with their parents every day during a typical week.

“Family meals are still the norm in the American family,” said Brett Brown, a researcher at Child Trends Inc., which recently issued a paper on the importance of eating together.

Teens who eat regularly with their families are more likely to do well in school, delay sexual activity, have better mental health and are less likely to get into fights, think about suicide or smoke, drink or use drugs, he said.

It’s also evident from research that children from all kinds of families — two-parent, single-parent, low-income, minority, immigrant — “are likely to eat together,” said Mr. Brown. “For kids who are facing other challenges, this is actually a great strength, an asset that they have.”

A major finding of the new census report is that 75 percent of American schoolchildren ages 12 to 17 are at or above their grade level.

This marks a steady improvement from 1994, when 69 percent of these students were considered “on track,” the report said. Girls were more likely to be at or above grade level than boys (78 percent and 72 percent, respectively).

A second significant finding was that more children live in homes with rules about which television programs they can watch and when and how long they can watch.

The rise in parental TV restrictions was especially steep for preschoolers — in 1994, 54 percent of children aged 3 to 5 lived in homes with these three TV rules, but by 2003, this increased to 67 percent.

Census researchers did not speculate about why there has been such a change, but in recent years, pediatricians’ groups and media watchdogs have said excessive exposure to television and other entertainment media can lead to weight gain in children, as well as heighten risks for problems at school and in social relationships.

The new report, which is based on data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, also shows that, compared with 1994:

• More parents — roughly 50 percent — read to their young children every day.

• Fewer school-age children of all ages experienced the disruption of changing schools.

• Among children ages 12-17, fewer (10 percent vs. 16 percent) ever repeated a grade, but slightly more (11 percent vs. 10 percent) were suspended from school at least once.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide