Study: TV Shows Can Affect Kids Behavior
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Parents who want their preschoolers to quit wrestling with the neighbor kids and lose the bad attitude around bedtime may want to take a closer look at their children's TV diet, says a researcher with a new study on TV and kids.


SOURCE - AP TELEVISIONRESTRICTION - NoneSeattle - February 5, 2013SHOT LIST1. SOUNDBITE: Dr. Dimitri Christakis, University of Washington Researcher"The problem for most children today in the unitedstates and for that matter globally is that they watch too much television overall. But an equally large problem is what they watch. Their media diet tends to be very unhealthy. Far too much violence. Not enough quality programming."2. Wide of Christakis showing TV schedule on computer3. SOUNDBITE: Dr. Dimitri Christakis, University of Washington Researcher"We tried to get them to substitute pro-social programs like Mister Rogers for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. We looked at their behavior at 6 months and 12 months after the intervention. We found that children who were in the media diet arm had more pro-social behavior and less aggression compared to the control arm."4. Tight shot of TV schedule on computer5. SOUNDBITE: Dr. Dimitri Christakis, University of Washington Researcher"The important point here I think for parents, is that it's not just about turning off the television, it's about changing the channel. What children watch is as important as how much they watch."SOURCE - AP TELEVISIONRESTRICTION - NoneSeattle - February 12, 20136. Shot of television in Nancy Jensen's home with her daughter in background and son walks into frame7. SOUNDBITE: Nancy Jensen, Study Participant"It was a little bit of a shocker. I didn't realize how much TV Elizabeth was watching."8. Daughter and son playing with multi-colored triangles9. Daughter playing10. Tight shot of the daughter's and son's hands playing with triangles11. SOUNDBITE: Nancy Jensen, Study Participant"Yeah, you know when she would watch a little bit of our buddy Spongebob and couple of other cartoons, she could be a little bit agro. And afterward when we started cutting that out, that behavior went away."11. Son watching television12. Tight of son's eye watching television13. Shot of the front of the Jensen home with daughter riding her bike with a friend14. Daughter riding her bike with a friendSTORYLINE:Parents who want their preschoolers to quit wrestling with the neighbor kids and lose the bad attitude around bedtime may want to take a closer look at their children's TV diet, says a researcher with a new study on TV and kids.Scientists have known for decades that kids imitate what they see on TV, in videos andcomputer games.Those clever, snarky TV shows parents enjoy watching with their kids encourage their preschoolers to be snarky, aggressive, and a lot of other things parents would rather avoid.Researchers at the University of Washington discovered in a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics that the opposite is also true: Changing a child's TV diet to pro-social, educational and less violent shows result in 4- and 5-year-olds who get along well with others, resolve problems with words and share their toys.The positive results came without any attempt to cut back on screen time."It's not just about turning off the television. It's about changing the channel. What children watch is as important as how much they watch," said Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle and a researcher at University of Washington.The randomized controlled trial of 565 parents of preschool-aged children ages 3 to 5 years was started in 2009. Before the study, the children averaged about an hour and a half of TV, video and computer game watching a day, with violentcontent making up about a quarter of that time.Half the families were given tools to improve their children's TV watching and the others were given advice on how to improve their kids' eating habits. Both groups were asked to keep a TV diary three days a week and were interviewedmonthly about their child's behavior over 12 months. Neither group was told the actual purpose of the study or which group they were in, Christakis said.For six months, the intervention group received coaching about ways to get kids to watch more child appropriate shows with less violence like "Dora the Explorer" or "Sesame Street." They also were program guides and DVDs.The researchers found both groups improved their behavior, with the control group showing more improvement, but the differences diminished over time and were not statistically significant six months after the intervention stopped. One subgroup, however, appeared to get more benefit from the intervention than others, low income boys. Christakis said he plans to take a closer look at TV and low income boys in a future study."That's important because they are at the greatest risk, both for being perpetrators of aggression in real life, but also being victims of aggression," Christakis said.Study participant Nancy Jensen says she's tried to make the media diet a permanent change for her daughter, Elizabeth, 6, after a small taste of the behavior changes during the study. Jensen has cut back on TV time in her home and continues to control what Elizabeth and her 2-year-old brother, Joe, watch.Jensen said the study was a wake-up call for her."I didn't realize how much Elizabeth was watching and how much she was watching on her own," she said. The research study suggestions through a program guide and sample DVDs pushed them toward other shows and Jensen decided on her own toreplace most of Elizabeth's TV time with games and art and outdoor fun.During a recent visit to their Seattle home, the children were more interested in playing with blocks and running around outside than watching TV.Christakis said he didn't realize how grateful parents would be for the advice. Many families expressed interest in continuing to receive program guides after the study ended.Another researcher who was not involved in this study but also focuses his work on kids and television commended Christakis for taking a look at the influence of positive TV programs, instead of focusing on the impact of violent TV."I think it's fabulous that people are looking on the positive side. Because no one's going to stop watching TV, we have to have viable alternatives for kids," said Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital Boston and an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard University.Rich said more research was needed to determine why low income boys were most affected and how much the TV diet helps over time."It's a great first start in the right direction and I hope more studies like this happen," he said.For families who want to create their own media diet, Christakis recommends . Christakis' team got the information for their media guides from this site, which reviews TV, video and game content. He also recommends parents learn how to use the parental controls on many modern televisions and use other technology like digital video recorders to guide TV viewing.Although there is a wealth of pro-social programming for preschoolers, Christakis says school-age children don't have as many good choices. That is one of the reasons he believes families didn't have an easy time staying on their media diet after the study ended and their children were a year older.(****END****)