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Dora vs. Batman: Does Watching Positive TV Improve Your Child’s Behavior?

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February 25, 2013

We’ve all heard the saying ‘You are what you eat’ and it’s natural for parents to encourage their kids to eat healthy. But what about ‘You are what you watch?’ Should parents encourage their kids to watch positive TV programs that don’t include any violence or sarcastic comments? Does what they watch make a difference in their behavior?  One study says it does, but the results seemed short-term.

Positive TV Programs and Healthy Eating

A recent study by the journal Pediatrics, involving 565 Seattle families, had parents fill out a TV diary for their kids. It included how much TV they were watching, as well as what programs they watched. Half of the parents were coached for 6 months on getting their kids to watch programs such as Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer, rather than shows such as Power Rangers.

The other half of the kids were coached on healthy eating, but watched more violent shows. The results? After six months both groups showed improvements in their behavior. But after only a year, there seemed to be no difference between the two groups.

The AP reported the study does have some flaws. Although parents were not told what the study was about, the conclusion was they most likely figured it out, which quite possibly skewed the results. But whether the results were affected by their knowledge or not, one parent of a six-year-old said it was a wake-up call for her.

Before the study, she didn’t realize just how much TV her young daughter was watching. Now she fills more of her daughter’s time with encouraging her to play outside, as well as with games and activities.

New Zealand Study Shows TV Watching Affects Behavior

Another study involving 1,037 New Zealanders born in 1972 and 1973, showed that young adults who watched more television as kids (the type of program wasn’t mentioned), were more likely ‘to have a criminal conviction, a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, and more aggressive personality traits compared with those who viewed less television.’

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em?

Studies show the average pre-school aged child watches 4.4 hours of TV a day. Between all of the available technology such as smart phones and tablets, not to mention regular TV watching at home and daycare, our children are around it all the time. So do parents crack down on the amount of TV time? One pediatrician says it’s a ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ type of situation.

Her conclusion is, the screens are going to be on no matter what. So instead of limiting their time, parents should focus more on the types of programs their kids are watching.

What’s a Parent to Do?

It’s obvious times are different and we’re in an age of constantly being surrounded by some sort of ‘tube’. So what is a parent to do? Do we crack down on the amount of TV our kids watch, the types of programming they are watching or both? Do you have any set TV rules in your home? Let us know in the comments section below.

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