If kids must watch television, parents must be selective about programs children watch

20 Feb

Moi said this in Play is as important for children as technology:

Let’s make this short and sweet. Park your kid in front of the television and you will probably be raising an overweight idiot. Tara Parker-Pope has a great post at the New York Times blog. In the post, TV For Toddlers Linked With Later Problems Parker-Pope reports:

Toddlers who watch a lot of television were more likely to experience a range of problems by the fourth grade, including lower grades, poorer health and more problems with school bullies, a new study reports.

The study of more than 1,300 Canadian schoolchildren tracked the amount of television children were watching at the ages of about 2 and 5. The researchers then followed up on the children in fourth grade to assess academic performance, social issues and general health.

On average, the schoolchildren were watching about nine hours of television each week as toddlers. The total jumped to about 15 hours as they approached 5 years of age. The average level of television viewing shown in the study falls within recommended guidelines. However, 11 percent of the toddlers were exceeding two hours a day of television viewing.

For those children, each hour of extra TV exposure in early childhood was associated with a range of issues by the fourth grade, according to the report published in the May issue of The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Compared with children who watched less television, those with more TV exposure participated less in class and had lower math grades. They suffered about 10 percent more bullying by classmates and were less likely to be physically active on weekends. They consumed about 10 percent more soft drinks and snacks and had body mass index scores that were about 5 percent higher than their peers.

Well duh, people. You probably already knew this. Guess why you have feet attached to your legs? So, you and the kids can walk around the neighborhood and the park. Better yet, why don’t you encourage your children to play.https://drwilda.com/2012/09/16/play-is-as-important-for-children-as-technology/

Seattle Children’s Hospital reports on a television study in the article, For children’s behavior, TV content as important as quantity:

Children imitate what they see on the screen, both good and bad behavior. This effect of television and video programming can be applied to positively impact children’s behavior according to a study published online in Pediatrics on Feb. 18. The study, “Modifying media content for preschool children: A randomized controlled trial,” was led by Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

Media diet study

Researchers in Seattle studied 565 families with children aged three to five years who spent at least some time watching TV or video content each week. Half of the families were randomly assigned to a “media diet” intervention while the other half, “the control group,” received a nutritional diet intervention designed to promote healthier eating habits. “For the media diet, we coached families on how to substitute prosocial and educational programs for violent ones,” said Christakis.

What is prosocial content?

Prosocial programming encourages children to be kind and to share, and portrays adults as dependable.

The intervention addressed all screen time (TV, DVDs and videos, computer, video games, handheld devices, etc.), but the primary focus was on TV and videos because this accounts for the vast majority of screen time in preschool-aged children.

How families followed a media diet

Families in both groups kept media diaries and provided details on the amount of time spent watching TV, videos and other types of screen time. The research team distributed monthly program guides and a sample DVD of prosocial content that would appeal to boys, girls and diverse populations. Families were also steered to Common Sense Media, which provides ratings for family movies, TV shows, websites and video games.

The intervention did not attempt to reduce the number of hours of screen time for the children, but it did encourage a positive media diet and co-viewing with parents. A case manager followed up with families regularly for 12 months. At six months and 12 months, the children in the media diet intervention group were spending significantly less time on violent programming than they did at the start of the study, compared to the control group.

Both the intervention and control groups increased viewing time slightly during the study, but the control group increased its minutes of violent content, while the intervention group increased its minutes of prosocial and educational content.

At six months, the children in the intervention group demonstrated significantly less aggression and more prosocial behavior compared to the control group, and the effect lasted throughout the 12 months. Christakis and team concluded that such an intervention can positively impact child behavior.

Content as important as quantity

We often focus on how much kids watch and don’t focus enough on what they watch,” Christakis said. “While too many children watch too much TV, this study shows that content is as important as quantity.  It isn’t just about turning off the TV, it’s about changing the channel.”

Christakis said the public health description for a media diet is that it’s a harm reduction approach, similar to a needle exchange, condom distribution or a methadone clinic for heroin addicts. “The media diet reduces the risks associated with TV,” he said.

What about parents who didn’t take part in the study? “Parents could absolutely implement the media diet on their own,” said Christakis.

Implement a media diet in your home: Dr. Christakis’ tips for parents

• Keep a media diary to make sure you’re aware of the TV and movies your child is watching
• Choose less violent and more prosocial content for your kids to watch, via sites like Common Sense Media
• Watch TV and movies with your children, so that you’re more aware of the content


Promoting health early child development: An update and research agenda from the Christakis Lab, January 2013
New study links violent videos to sleep problems in preschool children, August 2012,
Infant brains more engaged when playing with interactive toys: Study, July 2012,
Journal of Pediatrics
Powerpuff Girls vs. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: Media impact on early childhood development, January 2012, TEDxRainier http://pulse.seattlechildrens.org/for-childrens-behavior-tv-content-as-important-as-quantity/

See, Study: Changing the Channel Could Lessen Bad Influence of TV http://www.educationnews.org/parenting/study-changing-the-channel-could-lessen-bad-influence-of-tv/


Modifying Media Content for Preschool Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial

  1. Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPHa,b,
  2. Michelle M. Garrison, PhDa,c,
  3. Todd Herrenkohl, PhDd,
  4. Kevin Haggerty, MSWd,
  5. Frederick P. Rivara, MD, MPHa,b,
  6. Chuan Zhou, PhDa,b, and
  7. Kimberly Liekweg, BAa

+ Author Affiliations

  1. aCenter for Child Health, Behavior, and Development, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, Seattle, Washington; and
  2. Departments of bPediatrics and
  3. cHealth Services, and
  4. dSchool of Social Work, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington


BACKGROUND: Although previous studies have revealed that preschool-aged children imitate both aggression and prosocial behaviors on screen, there have been few population-based studies designed to reduce aggression in preschool-aged children by modifying what they watch.

METHODS: We devised a media diet intervention wherein parents were assisted in substituting high quality prosocial and educational programming for aggression-laden programming without trying to reduce total screen time. We conducted a randomized controlled trial of 565 parents of preschool-aged children ages 3 to 5 years recruited from community pediatric practices. Outcomes were derived from the Social Competence and Behavior Evaluation at 6 and 12 months.

RESULTS: At 6 months, the overall mean Social Competence and Behavior Evaluation score was 2.11 points better (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.78–3.44) in the intervention group as compared with the controls, and similar effects were observed for the externalizing subscale (0.68 [95% CI: 0.06–1.30]) and the social competence subscale (1.04 [95% CI: 0.34–1.74]). The effect for the internalizing subscale was in a positive direction but was not statistically significant (0.42 [95% CI: −0.14 to 0.99]). Although the effect sizes did not noticeably decay at 12 months, the effect on the externalizing subscale was no longer statistically significant (P = .05). In a stratified analysis of the effect on the overall scores, low-income boys appeared to derive the greatest benefit (6.48 [95% CI: 1.60–11.37]).

CONCLUSIONS: An intervention to reduce exposure to screen violence and increase exposure to prosocial programming can positively impact child behavior.

Published online February 18, 2013

(doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-1493)

  1. » Abstract

  2. Full Text (PDF)

In Television cannot substitute for quality childcare, moi wrote:

Sarah D. Sparks reports in the Education Week article, Is Television the New Secondhand Smoke?

Prior research suggests background television can have a “chronic disruptive impact on very young children’s behavior.” Studies have linked background television to less focused play among toddlers, poorer parent-child interaction, and interference with older students’ ability to do homework.

For every minute of television to which children are directly exposed, there are an
additional 3 minutes of indirect exposure, making background exposure a much greater
proportion of time in a young child’s day,” the study noted.

Considering the accumulating evidence regarding the impact that background television exposure has on young children, we were rather floored about the sheer scale of children’s exposure with just under 4 hours of exposure each day,” Lapierre said in a statement on the study. Lapierre and his fellow researchers recommended that parents, teachers and early childcare providers turn off televisions when no one is watching a particular program and that parents prevent children from keeping a television in their rooms.

It’s easy to think about this as just one more alarm about how our modern media environment is ruining our kids. Yet the more interesting take-away from this field of research is how critical it is for children to learn actively and socially. Children learn from adults speaking to, with and around them, and from actively engaging with their world.

Anything that limits or distracts from that active interaction can be a problem, but not an insurmountable one. For example, researchers at the University of Washington’s Learning in Formal and Informal Environments, or LIFE, Center, is doing some fascinating work on the potential benefits of interactive media. There’s also been some interesting work on using video conferencing to read with children. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/04/is_television_the_new_secondha.html?intc=es

If watching television is not an appropriate activity for toddlers, then what are appropriate activities? The University of Illinois Extension has a good list of Age-Based Activities For Toddlers

See, How to Have a Happier, Healthier, Smarter Baby

Parents must interact with their children and read to them. Television is not a parental substitute. https://drwilda.com/2012/04/23/television-cannot-substitute-for-quality-childcare/


Study: Children subject to four hours background television daily                                                                              https://drwilda.com/2012/10/02/study-children-subject-to-fours-background-television-daily/

Common Sense Media report: Media choices at home affect school performance                                                               https://drwilda.com/2012/11/01/common-sense-media-report-media-choices-at-home-affect-school-performance/

Where information leads to Hope. ©                 Dr. Wilda.com

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