How does TV change kids' moods?

The Good News
It's a good idea for parents to watch TV with their children so they can discuss what they see.
It's a good idea for parents to watch TV with their children so they can discuss what they see.

By giving children the tools to experience media in a mindful way, we can turn television into a positive experience. The fact is, TV provides a wealth of emotional knowledge and wisdom when our children know what they're looking at.

As parents, watching alongside our children, engaging in both the entertainment and discussions about what we're seeing, can bring out the full educational potential that television offers. When we talk to our kids about what they're watching, what might happen next or what the characters are feeling, we're using the TV to give our children valuable insight on the nature of emotion and socialization.

One study shows that children, having experienced distressing entertainment, coped with the trauma by seeking to understand it. In the end, this means a better understanding of both the world and self, but it requires the guidance of a parent or caregiver. We might not always like what television shows us -- sometimes, there's no value at all -- but when we're engaging with kids, even those realizations can be valuable [source: Fatum].

Several studies have shown that, depending on age, children grow more capable of empathizing and understanding the emotional states of characters in their favorite shows. Interestingly, while even preschoolers could understand and empathize with television characters, they were shown to retain this information better when it related to live-action characters over cartoons or puppets. Older children remembered emotional content better when they found the stories more realistic, too: In both cases, greater empathy developed the more the child identified with the character [source: Fatum].

By recognizing visual and tonal signs of emotion, and considering what the characters might do next, kids develop their EQ, or emotional quotient: a key factor in overall intelligence, and one that will prove invaluable as they grow. Developmental psychologists and media scholars have argued that screen media play a crucial role in children's emotional development, but much research still focuses on media's connection to more antisocial behaviors [source: Fatum].

By involving ourselves with our kids' consumption of entertainment, just as we try to monitor their food intake and social interactions, we not only get to know our children better (and enjoy more time with them), but we also get to be there to help them reach the biggest goal of all: becoming responsible, happy, social people.

For more great TV articles, check out the links on the next page.

More to Explore