Watching TV affects children behavior and has an educational role, but not the one that parents are hoping for. Children imitate everything they see, so violent TV shows become one of the reasons for anxiety and aggressive behavior in preschoolers.
Monday’s issue of the journal Pediatrics published a new study which advises how to improve our children’s mental health with a “media diet”. We have always thought that limiting the time kids watch TV solves the problem, but it seems that what children watch is as important as how much they watch. The study involved 565 parents of 3-to-5-year-old kids in Seattle who had aggressive behavior towards other kids. Half of the children were told to eat healthy food to cope with the problem and the other half received the so called media diet. Their parents allowed them to watch TV programs like Sesame Street, and stopped more violent shows like Power Rangers and Transformers. The success of the media diet was modest, but had a long-term effect.
After six months of healthier TV – educational and empathy-building shows, preschoolers showed significantly less aggression, more positive attitudes and were able to manage easier with problems and relationships than healthy food eaters. The author of the study, Dr. Dimitri Christakis of Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and his team noticed that boys from poorer families were getting the greatest benefit of the media diet, although the reasons were not clear.
The solution to improving kids’ behavior and mental health looks too easy, but researchers say, it’s not perfect. After all, the assessment of children’s aggression during the study was completely left to parents’ judgment, which may not be objective. Another factor wasn’t taken into consideration – many of the kids in a pre-school age don’t watch TV only at home, so the data cannot be absolutely authentic.
Another problem, according to scientists, is that little kids are not straightly influenced by the good messages in the healthy shows, because moral lessons can be too complicated for this early age. Kids can’t always connect the good deeds of the hero with the good outcome in the story, that’s why parents should choose age-appropriate TV shows – if your kid is 3 years old you shouldn’t select films for 7-year-olds. Another good strategy to make your kid understand better what is wrong and what is right, is to explain and talk to the kid.