Violent TV shows keep young kids awake: study

August 6, 2012 By Serena Gordon, HealthDay Reporter
Violent TV shows keep young kids awake: study
Preschoolers who stuck to nonviolent fare just before bed were much more likely to sleep well.

(HealthDay) -- There's more evidence that watching violent or age-inappropriate images on TV, in movies or on computers can significantly disrupt children's sleep.

Kids between 3 and 5 years old who were exposed only to age-appropriate viewing materials in the hour before bed were 64 percent less likely to have any type of disturbance, such as trouble falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep or , according to a new study.

Perhaps surprisingly, "violent" media might even include popular kids' fare such as , said the study's lead author, Michelle Garrison.

"Making a relatively simple change in what kids are watching is a change worth the effort," said Garrison, a principal investigator at the Center for , Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Research Institute. "Sometimes feel overwhelmed by the idea of getting rid of TV altogether, but switching shows can make a big difference."

The study will be published in the September issue of the journal Pediatrics, and was released online Aug. 6.

Numerous studies have linked media use with , but most of these studies have had children of various ages and varying media use. It also hasn't been clear whether watching something right before bed is stimulating in itself or if the content of the media plays a role.

The current study included nearly 600 children aged 3 to 5 living in the Seattle area. Families were randomized into one of two groups: One group received a home visit, follow-up and mailings with coaching about how to make better media choices for their young children; the other group simply received mailings about .

The researchers didn't attempt to reduce the total number of hours of media use. The goal instead was to reduce violent and age-inappropriate content.

The types of programming that are considered age-inappropriate might surprise you.

"An 8-year-old can watch superheroes and understand that it's not what happens in real life," Garrison said. "But the same content can be overwhelming and scary for a 3-year-old. The idea that people might just explode is scary for a 3-year-old."

Garrison said the research suggests that parents should instead select shows such as Sesame Street, Curious George and Dora the Explorer. "These shows can be beneficial for preschool children to watch, because they emphasize things such as literacy, numbers and social skills," she said.

"When kids in this age group watched violent or age-inappropriate media, they were more likely to have nightmares, have a hard time falling asleep and wake up during the night," Garrison said.

The researchers found the opposite was true when kids watched nonviolent, age-appropriate media. These youngsters were 64 percent less likely to have any sleep problems.

"Clearly, children process information while they sleep. If it's the last thing they do before bed, they'll be processing that as they sleep," said Dr. Sangeeta Chakravorty, director of the Pediatric Sleep Evaluation Center at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Ideally, Garrison said, children this age wouldn't be engaged with any in the hour before bed.

"Even shows with really good content can still be a problem for sleep," she said. "When kids are reading a book or playing with toys before bed, they control the pace. But TV ramps their brains up when they're trying to slow down."

Chakravorty agreed. "Electronic stimulation at bedtime can affect your child's sleep and affect their thinking process," she said. "It's best to avoid exposure altogether at least an hour before bedtime. But if your children are watching something before bed, make sure it's age appropriate."

Explore further: Studies examine impact of media use among youth, recommend preventative measures

More information: To read more about children's sleep, visit the Nemours Foundation.

Related Stories

Studies examine impact of media use among youth, recommend preventative measures

June 27, 2011
In today's society where access to media is ever present, many parents worry about what is appropriate media usage for their children and how media consumption can potentially affect them. Two new studies led by Dr. Dimitri ...

Study: kids who sleep in parents' bed less likely to be overweight

May 9, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Children who wake up at night and are allowed to fall back asleep in their parents' bed are less likely to be overweight than kids put back into their own bed, a new study says.

Recommended for you

The effects of happiness and sadness on children's snack consumption

February 19, 2018
A University of Texas at Dallas psychologist has examined the preconceptions about the effects of emotions on children's eating habits, creating the framework for future studies of how dietary patterns evolve in early childhood.

Cycle of infant reflux signals a call to help mothers

February 14, 2018
Western Sydney University research has found that first-time mothers with mental health issues – in particular, maternal anxiety – are five times as likely to have their baby noted as having reflux when admitted to hospital.

Safe-sleep recommendations for infants have not reduced sudden deaths in newborns

February 14, 2018
An analysis of trends in sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) over the past two decades finds that the drop in such deaths that took place following release of the 1992 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) "back to sleep" ...

Most children with sickle cell anemia not receiving key medication to stay healthy

February 13, 2018
One of the greatest health threats to children with sickle cell anemia is getting a dangerous bacterial infection—but most are not receiving a key medication to reduce the risk, a new study suggests.

Premature babies' low blood pressure puzzle explained

February 13, 2018
Scientists have discovered crucial new information about how a foetus develops which could explain why very premature babies suffer low blood pressure and other health problems.

Babies face higher SIDS risk in certain states

February 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) claims the lives of some 3,500 babies in the United States each year, but its toll is far heavier in some states than others, health officials report.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.