Watch too much television? So will your kids

Surprise, surprise folks. If you want your kids to stop watching so much television, you're going to have to put down the remote.

A recent U.S. study, published in the journal Pediatrics, has found that the biggest influence on kids’ television viewing habits is how much screen time their parents get.

Researchers looked at 1,550 parents of children 17 years or younger and found that each hour mom or dad watched television resulted in 23 more minutes of viewing time for their child. On average, the parents in the study watched about four hours a day, and the kids three hours.

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Canadian parents report their kids watching around two and a half hours of television a day, according to recent Statistics Canada data.

“Lots of parents are concerned about how much TV their kids watch,” Amy Bleakley, lead author and senior research scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, tells Time. “We wanted to raise awareness of how their own media habits may be affecting that of their kids.”

Bleakley and her team found that children's viewing time was most strongly linked to parent's viewing time, more so than parental restrictions on TV viewing, where the TVs were placed in the home, or how much television parents and children watched together.

Restrictions on viewing had some effect for kids aged six to 11, and teens reported watching an hour more a day than their parents estimated.

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“We are wired as children to pick up from our environment what we observe quicker than what we are told,” Dr. Gopal Chopra, a neurosurgeon and associate professor at Duke University, tells Time. “Children are mirrors and we must be vigilant of the impact of our behavior."

Previous research has linked long hours spent in front of the television with childhood obesity, inadequate sleep and poor grades.

A study from last year by the Canadian Media Fund suggests that shared family television watching is considered cherished time by most families, and that often it is seen as a learning tool by the parents.