Gov’t Spends $2.4 Million to 'Improve the TV Diet of Preschool Children'

By Elizabeth Harrington | April 3, 2013 | 12:11pm EDT

(AP Photo)

( – The federal government has spent $2.4 million to “improve the TV diet of preschool children,” in grants administered through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Seattle Children’s Hospital has received $2,415,519 since 2008 for a study, entitled, “Media Impact on Preschool Behavior,” which aims to steer children away from violent programming.

“Considerable research has established the adverse effects of violent Television programming on children's level of aggression,” the grant’s description reads.  “Research has also established that certain types of media programming can actually promote pro-social behavior. Unfortunately, the current viewing habits of most preschoolers lean heavily towards inappropriate programming at the expense of higher quality shows.”

“This study will attempt to improve the TV diet of preschool children, without increasing overall viewing time,” it states.

Though the project has been going on for five years, the researchers have only published two studies under the results section, both dealing with television viewing and children’s sleep patterns.

One published report in 2012 tested a “healthy media use intervention” on 565 children to try to replace violent or inappropriate television content through home visits and phone calls.  The researchers concluded that children in the intervention group had less of a chance for sleep problems when viewing educational content.

(AP Photo)

The project is being led by Dr. Dimitri Christakis, the director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Hospital.  Christakis published a study in 2009 that found children in home-based child care settings are exposed to more television viewing each day than in day care centers.

The NIH grant, administered through the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, says it is targeting children ages 3 to 5 because young children “may be especially vulnerable to the effects of viewing” violent or aggressive programming.

“This primary prevention effort will focus on young children, in an attempt to avert the emergence of violent behavior patterns later in youth and adolescence,” the grant states.

The project will conclude in May 2013.

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