A new study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics on Monday finds that changing what children watch on TV can improve behavior, especially for boys.
found parents of preschoolers who changed the channel from violent shows to educational programs had calmer children.
For six months the researchers studied 565 families in Seattle who filled out television questionnaires of what their children watched and how their children behaved. The parents were not asked t turn the television off or watch less television.
Instead, parents were told to turn the television to more educational shows, like “Sesame Street” and “Dora the Explorer” rather than more violent programs like “Power Rangers.” The results were compared with kids whose parents got advice on healthful eating instead.
Before the study, the children averaged about 1 1/2 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.
After the study was over, children in both groups showed improved behavior, but there was a little bit more improvement in the group that was coached on their TV watching.
However, by one year, there was no meaningful difference between the two groups overall. Low-income boys appeared to get the most short-term benefit.
The study does have some bias, as the parents weren't told the purpose of the study, but the authors say they probably figured it out and that might have affected the results.