A Tiny Experiment into How TV Can Effect a Child’s Behaviour
I was with a client recently, discussing her 10 month old son’s sleeping, while he peacefully napped upstairs, and his 3 year old brother played in the living room where we were sitting. The big brother was a lively little boy and he played brilliantly on his own and with the cat, demanding minimal attention from his mum. An hour or so into the 3 hour consultation, he asked if he could watch TV – not unreasonable as he had been playing on his own for ages. His mum said that he absolutely loves The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and would happily watch them all day given the chance. That’s pretty normal for a young boy, and what happened next is probably pretty normal too…
He found his two favourite Ninja Turtle swords, shoved them down the back of his t-shirt and started charging around the living room. He was jumping and climbing on the sofas, waving his swords around, swinging, swiping and chopping at the (very tolerant and good natured) cat, and yelling at the top of his lungs. He went totally crazy! Thankfully he didn’t disturb his little brother who was still sleeping upstairs, but his excitement was growing and growing, as was his voice, to the point where we couldn’t continue our conversation because we could hear each other over his bellowing. His mum did try to calm him down, she asked him to stop charging around and he did. For a moment! But the excitement got the better of him and he was bouncing off the walls again in a matter of seconds.
So I asked mum if she minded doing a little experiment. I asked her to put something else on the TV. Something sickly sweet and calm and boring. As she flicked through the shows, he shouted for other exciting shows but we picked Charlie and Lola instead. The change in him was almost instant. He didn’t get cross that we had switched off his favourite show, he didn’t have a tantrum for not getting the show he wanted. He just sat down on the sofa, pulled a blanket over his knees and stuck his thumb in his mouth. And there he remained for several episodes of Charlie and Lola.
There has been a lot of research done over the years into how violence on television can have a lasting impact on a child’s behaviour as they grow up, leading to them being violent as teenagers, and lacking empathy. There have also been studies that show how educational and positive television shows can have a positive influence on a child’s behaviour.
My little experiment showed that this one little boy, who’s behaviour is clearly influenced by the excitement and violence of his favourite crazy TV shows, can also be calmed by more peaceful shows. And as a result, his mother was able to get the most out of her sleep consultation!
My question is: Has the over-exposure to musicals and Barbie films been the cause of my daughter’s obsession of music and dancing? And has her love of pop music and pop stars caused her to have an affected american accent and bizarre hand and head gestures that she’s never seen me doing? (I know the answer to both of these is “yes”, so clearly my attempt at controlling her television viewing has massively backfired!)
If you’re interested in reading more: Dr Gail Gross – Violence on TV and How it Can Affect You Children