US parents are reading more to their children and placing more restrictions on their television viewing than they did 10 years earlier.
Every evening, Dan and Cheryl Weese and their three kids sit around the dinner table together and talk about their day.
Television is no distraction: The family's TV has been in the basement for six years.
"We don't miss it," says Mr. Weese, a Chicago architect. He and his wife, who also works, made a decision when their first son was born to "challenge ourselves to be more involved" with their kids. Ditching TV, eating breakfast and dinner together, and regularly reading to their 7-year-old son and 4-year-old twins are all part of that decision.
The Weeses may still be unusual among US families, but more parents are moving in their direction, according to new Census data released Wednesday. Among other things, parents are reading more to their children and placing more restrictions on their television viewing than they did 10 years earlier. Nine percent more children are taking classes outside school, and 5 percent fewer 12- to 17-year-olds had to repeat a grade.
"It appears parents are more involved with their kids than they were 10 years ago," says Jane Dye, a family demographer with the US Census Bureau who helped compile the data, which was based on the 2004 Survey of Income and Program Participation.
The news may seem startling to those accustomed to headlines about kids glued to the TV, but experts say the Census data confirm a trend of more protective, involved parenting that has been going on for some time. "This generation of parents is monitoring their children more diligently than generations in the past," says Ruby Takanishi, president of the Foundation for Child Development, which publishes an annual Child Well-Being Index. The Census data is based on self-reporting, she notes, and it's impossible to know whether people tell the truth. "But they're certainly reporting what they think should be the truth."