Tag Archives: kids and tv

Study Says Violent Television is Bad for Young Children

Posted by Marianne Frederick

Halloween is almost upon us, and it’s no surprise that primetime television is becoming bloodier and gorier. Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services turned its attention to the problem that violent TV has a marked effect on kids in a less than healthy way, causing kids to have nightmares that keep them from sleeping soundly and getting the good rest they need. Without sound sleep, growing bodies cannot be and stay healthy.

A study performed by Children’s Hospital and University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle, reviewed by Dr. Michelle Garrison, PhD, MPH, noted the behavior of 565 families, some of whom permitted their young children to watch only non-violent programs such as “Curious George” and “Sesame Street”. After a year, it was observed that children in the study who watched non-violent television shows slept better and with fewer night wakings and less sleep disturbed by nightmares than other children in the study. (The study was published in the journal Pediatrics and funded by the National Institutes of Health.)

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Beat, September 18, 2012, noted Dr. Garrison’s caution that violent cartoons which might be tolerated by older children caused children ages 3 to 5 significant problems sleeping. Dr. Garrison says, “Healthy sleep plays such a critical role in child and adolescent development. We know from previous research that sleep problems can lead to behavior problems, difficulties in school, obesity, and increased injuries.”

So, parents and caregivers, if you are fans of the scarier Halloween shows, it might be best to DVR the Dracula shows and play them for big kids and adults after young children are soundly and peacefully asleep!

Fast-paced Action Cartoons Harmful to Young Kids?

Recently, articles in the medical media have raised concerns about the effect on children’s brains and their cognition in general due to fast-paced cartoons. An article by Michael Smith featured in MedPage Today (9/12/11) noted a University of Virginia study performed by Angeline Lillard, PhD, and Jennifer Peterson, that points to kids’ cognition possibly being impaired by the rapid switching of scenes in cartoons such as “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

In the U.Va. controlled study, “The immediate impact of different types of television on young childrens’ executive function,” children who watched a rapid-pace, 9-minute cartoon that featured marine animals did less well afterward on tests of attention and cognition than children who spent the same amount of time using their creativity drawing.  The children also performed less well in testing than children who watched a slower-paced, educational cartoon. This particular study was reported in Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics Journal (Pediatrics 2011; DOI: 10:1542/peds.2010-1919.)

In a follow-up commentary on the study, Dmitri Christakis, MD, University of Washington-Seattle, suggested that while the U.Va. study had some weaknesses, including a small sample size (60 children), it raised an interesting point that “more children are now ‘digital natives'” who are highly exposed to media and are more accustomed to the various forms. (Christakis, DA, “The effects of fast-paced cartoons,” Pediatrics 2011: DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-2071.)

On another front, concerns were raised about childrens’ exposure to technology in an article called “Generation Wired” in the October 9, 2011, issue of Parade Magazine. The article offers a quiz parents can take, entitled, “What Kind of Internet Parent Are You?” (found at http://www.Parade.com/wired ), and helps parents decide whether they need to get involved in their childrens’ digital lives as actively as they do in academic or sports activities.

Television and the digital landscape can be positive places for kids to go to. The various media to which children are exposed can promote healthy habits, but children need guidance. Well-informed guidance is important for parents, family members and caregivers to provide. For today’s children, TV and computer technology have become an integral part of their lives, and parents need to make smart choices about what their children hear and see, whether it’s on TV or the Internet.