Healthy Kids : Remove Violent Videos to Improve Child's Sleep

Bravetta Hassell

It's not just late-night scary movies that are keeping children up.

According to a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, when parents cut their preschoolers' exposure to violent or age-inappropriate videos, their children sleep better.

"One of the things that's exciting to me is that if families want to make these changes, it doesn't require going to the doctor's office or going to a person's home," lead author Michelle Garrison told Reuters Health from Seattle's Children's Research Institute.

Instead, parents can make a simple change at home that can amount to a substantial improvement in their little one's ability to get a good night's sleep by being mindful of what he or she is watching throughout the day.

The study, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, included 565 Seattle-area children between the ages of 3 and 5, and was conducted over the course of 18 months.

Some of the parents -- the intervention group -- were encouraged to replace violent and age-inappropriate media content with "quality educational and prosocial content." Case managers made initial home visits to all participants and then followed up with monthly telephone calls for 12 months. All families were given a "child sleep habits" questionnaire to complete at six, 12 and 18 months from the start of the study.

The results showed that though a delay in getting to sleep is the most common child sleep problem, the children in the intervention group experienced lower odds of having any sleep problems. The results reinforce the previously reported relationship between media use and child sleep patterns as causal in nature, the report said. And the effects of healthy media use intervention on child sleep problems are "significant."

The latest study seems also to indicate that it's not just about when a child watches violent or age-inappropriate content that affects how they sleep, it is whether the child watches the images at all that influences their sleep outcomes.

By the 18-month mark of the study, however, the gains made by the media intervention had diminished in comparison with data collected at six and 12 months. Researchers said the decline suggests families may need continued support in choosing healthy media options for their children.

Bravetta Hassell 918-581-8316

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