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 below.

Related Articles


  • Allerton, Mark. "Emotions and Coping: Children's Talk about Negative Emotional Responses to Television." Early Child Development & Care. May 1995.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. "Smart Guide To Kid's TV." (April 27, 2011)
  • Carey, Benedict. "What Makes People Happy? TV, Study Says." The New York Times. Dec. 2, 2004. (April 27, 2011)
  • Dorr, Aimee. "Television & Affective Development & Functioning." Television and Behavior. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1982.
  • Fatum, Barbara. "The Creators of Sesame Street Were Right!!" Six Seconds. July 7, 2010. (April 27, 2011)
  • Federal Communications Commission. "Children's Educational Television." April 18, 2011. (April 27, 2011)
  • Graham, Judith and Leslie Forstadt. "Children, Television, and Screen Time." The University of Maine Cooperative Extension. (April 27, 2011)
  • Kalat, James W. and Michelle N. Shiota. "Emotion." Wadsworth Publishing. 2007.
  • Knowles, Ann D. and Mary C. Nixon. "Children's comprehension of a television cartoon's emotional theme." Australian Journal of Psychology. August 1990.
  • Liss, Marsha et al. "TV Heroes: The Impact Of Rhetoric & Deeds." Journal Of Applied Developmental Psychology. 1983.
  • Media Awareness Network. "Television -- Overview." (April 27, 2011)
  • Morales Tatiana. "Babies Saturated With Media." CBS Broadcasting. Oct. 29, 2003. (April 27, 2011)
  • Nemours. "How TV Affects Your Child." KidsHealth. (April 27, 2011)
  • Pankratz, Howard. "'Baby Einstein' may be harmful, study says." The Denver Post. Aug. 8, 2007. (April 27, 2011)
  • PBSKids. "Don't Buy It Guide for Parents and Caregivers." (April 27, 2011)
  • Rideout, Victoria J. et al. "Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds." The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. January 2010. (April 27, 2011)
  • Smith, Peter K. et al. "Understanding Children's Development." Blackwell Publishing. 2003.
  • Strasburger et al. "Children, Adolescents & The Media." SAGE Publications. 2009.
  • Waldman, Michael et al. "Does Television Cause Autism?" Cornell University. December 2006. (April 27, 2011)
  • Wilson, Barbara J. "Media and Children's Aggression, Fear, and Altruism." The Future of Children. Spring 2008. (April 27, 2011)