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When young children watch television by themselves, they are more likely to choose educational programming than when their parents watch with them, according to a new study.

"These findings suggest that children prefer [the Public Broadcasting Service] over commercial networks, but when children and parents view tv together, they watch the commercial channels that the parents prefer," say the authors of the study. Their report, "Children's Television-Viewing Habits and the Family Environment," appears in the March issue of the American Medical Association's American Journal of Diseases of Children.

The study, led by Dr. Howard L. Taras of the department of pediatrics at the University of California at San Diego, focused on 66 parents of children ages 3 to 8 who lived in an ethnically mixed, working-class suburb of San Diego.

The study found that children viewed PBS more often in households where tv was not routinely used as entertainment; when parents did not report watching with their children more than half the time; and when children had a strong influence on program selection.

The researchers suggested that "co-viewing," in which parents watch tv with their children to improve the the youngsters' viewing experience, "may paradoxically decrease the quality of tv content to which the child is exposed."

Parents interviewed reported that their children watched an average of 21.4 hours of television per week, with 76 percent regularly watching PBS. For preschool-age children, the average was 25 hours per week, while school-age children watched 17 hours per week. At least one tv set was available in every home.


More than 20 years after its inception, "Sesame Street" is still reaching its target audience of disadvantaged preschoolers, according to a new survey commissioned by the show's producers.

The survey was conducted by the research firm Yankelovich, Skelly and White/Clancy, Shulman for the Children's Television Workshop.

The survey of mothers of disadvantaged children in 25 communities across the country found that 92 percent of preschool-age children in low-income households watched the show. Of those children, nearly 80 percent watched at least once a week, while 57 percent watched daily.

The survey was undertaken to determine viewership of "Sesame Street'' in low-income households, which are poorly reflected in Nielsen television ratings and other marketing surveys, ctw officials said.

"Virtually every 5-year-old has seen the show," the study reports.

"Sesame Street," now in its 21st season, is seen weekdays on PBS stations.--mw

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