Most Pediatricians have opposed the idea of young children spending too much time in front of the TV, and The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees that children should be exposed to less than two hours of non-violent TV viewing, and that this viewing been done with adult supervision. The AAP also believes that children, under the age of two years, should not watch television at all.
A new study released by the Pediatrics Journal, researching the effects of violent television on childrens’ behavior, concludes that children who watched non-violent TV shows were less aggressive in their behavior than the children in the group who were allowed to watch whatever they wanted on TV.
The study, conducted by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington, divided a total of 565 parents with children aged 3 to 5 years old into two groups. Both groups were asked to keep a diary of the childern’s television watching habits. One group was told to have their children watch “prosocial” or educational TV programming. The other group, as the control group for this study, were only asked to track slight changes to their children’s diet, without making any changing to the kids TV viewing at all.
Prosocial TV shows, like “Sesame Street”, “Dora the Explorer” and shows seen on childrens’ programming on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel, encourages children to be kind and teaches them to share with others. The families that were asked to montior their children’s watching of prosocial programming were not asked to limit the TV time, but just to make sure that it was the only kind of TV the children were exposed to, for the purposes of the study.
The study participation lasted one year for both groups, and over that time researchers found that both groups had increased their childrens’ TV viewing time. The results started showing that even after just six months, the children in the prosocial group were already demonstrating less aggressive behavior than the children in the control group. This same result lasted throughout the 12month study period. Researchers noted that the most significant decrease in less agressive behavior was evidenced by the prosocial TV families that were from lower incomes. This is a very important realization because some children from lower income backgrounds may be more likely to prepetuate aggressive behavior in real life, and sometimes, are also more likely to become the victims of aggressive behavior as well.
Other researchers, while not involved with this particular study, have commended this research for focusing on the benefits of prosocial TV, as opposed to solely being about the effects of violent TV shows, as well as the commendations by other professionals who understand how this type of research may very well impact public health as well. Also noted by additional health professionals was that it is of utmost importance that children be exposed to qualitative programming because, especially as their young minds are developing, their behavior is influenced by what they watch.