TribLIVE

| USWorld

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Study: Watching less violent TV can help kids' behavior

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

By The Associated Press
Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

SEATTLE — Teaching parents to switch channels from violent shows to educational TV can improve preschoolers' behavior, even without getting them to watch less, a study found.

“It's not just about turning off the television. It's about changing the channel. What children watch is as important as how much they watch,” said lead author Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a University of Washington researcher and a pediatrician at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle.

The results were modest and faded over time but could hold promise for finding ways to help young children avoid aggressive, violent behavior, the study authors and other doctors said.

The research was published online on Monday by the journal Pediatrics.

The study involved 565 Seattle parents, who periodically filled out TV-watching diaries and questionnaires measuring their child's behavior.

Half were coached for six months on getting their 3- to-5-year-old kids to watch shows like “Sesame Street” and “Dora the Explorer” rather than more violent programs like “Power Rangers.” The results were compared with kids whose parents who got advice on healthy eating.

At six months, children in both groups showed improved behavior, but there was a bit more improvement in the group that was coached on their TV watching.

By one year, there was no meaningful difference between the two groups overall.

Low-income boys appeared to get the most short-term benefit.

“That's important because they are at the greatest risk, both for being perpetrators of aggression in real life, but also being victims of aggression,” Christakis said.

The study has some flaws. The parents weren't told the purpose of the study, but the authors concede they probably figured it out and that might have affected the results.

Before the study, the children averaged about 1½ hours of TV, video and computer game watching a day, with violent content making up about a quarter of that time. By the end of the study, that increased by up to 10 minutes. Those in the TV coaching group increased their time with positive shows; the healthy eating group watched more violent TV.

Nancy Jensen, who took part with her now 6-year-old daughter, said the study was a wake-up call.

“I didn't realize how much Elizabeth was watching and how much she was watching on her own,” she said.

Jensen said her daughter's behavior improved after making changes, and she continues to control what Elizabeth and her 2-year-old brother, Joe, watch.

She decided to replace most of Elizabeth's TV time with games, art and outdoor fun.

During a recent visit to their Seattle home, the children seemed more interested in playing with blocks and running around outside than watching television.

Another researcher, who was not involved in this study but focuses his work on kids and television, commended Christakis for taking a look at the influence of positive TV programs, instead of focusing on the impact of violent TV.

“I think it's fabulous that people are looking on the positive side. Because no one's going to stop watching TV, we have to have viable alternatives for kids,” said Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital Boston.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. Mine regulators move to expand safety feature
  2. Senate Dems get 34th vote to hand Obama victory on Iran deal
  3. More Hillary emails have parts blocked, ruled classified
  4. Clinton: Women ‘expect’ extremism from terrorists, not GOP candidates
  5. Kentucky clerk invokes ‘God’s authority,’ still refuses gay marriage licenses
  6. New guidelines to take effect for military equipment distributed to law enforcement
  7. Divorce lawyers, therapists stand to benefit from Ashley Madison hack
  8. Obama marks Hurricane Katrina anniversary in New Orleans visit
  9. Gas boom brings successes, struggles to W.Va. communities
  10. Indians, Asians lead Mexicans among immigrants in U.S.
  11. Long Island college student arrested for trying to record police, civil liberties experts say