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Study: TV Can Influence Kid Behavior

Michael Brian

We all know little kids imitate what they see, as any parent who’s dealt with an older sibling’s “he’s copying me!” lament can attest. But if kids also copy what they see on TV, could changing the shows they watch also change their behavior? A new study published in Pediatrics suggests it can.

Researchers from the Seattle Children’s Research Institute enlisted more than 500 parents of 3- to 5-year-olds, some of whom were asked to replace their children’s (often age-inappropriate and cartoonishly violent) regular viewing with “pro-social” shows in which cooperation and empathy are emphasized. Screen time was not adjusted. According to parent questionnaires, kids who consumed the pro-social media demonstrated better behavior in 6 months. Low-income boys seem to benefit most from the substitution. 

Plus: “Background TV” a Pervasive Concern

Pediatricians have long suggested limiting screen time for kids (no TV for kids under 2, and only an hour or two for kids over 2), yet the average American child watches more than four hours of TV daily, according to Common Sense Media.

Do you pay close attention to the content of kids’ shows? Do you notice a difference in behavior depending on what your kids watch? Leave a comment.