The impact scary television has on children and their emotional well-being may have been overstated through the years, a recent study out of the Univeristy of Sussex found.
“While research has shown that a small minority of children can have extreme reactions to a scary program or film, the researchers found that, overall, children show very little sign of increased anxiety, fear, sadness or sleep problems,” wrote PsyPost on the research.
Researchers Laura Pearce, a research student, and Andy Field, professor of child psychopathology at the University of Sussex, reviewed research on the topic from the past 25 years and found that “children are fairly resilient to the scary things that they might see on TV,” PsyPost wrote.
“Across studies, scary TV had an impact on children’s well-being but it was fairly small on average, suggesting that most are not affected very much at all,” Field said.
However, there are different personalities that may be more susceptible to being emotionally affected by certain content and this is where more research needs to be done — to learn which personalities are affected most, he said.
“What is it about the media or about those individuals that causes this reaction? There is good reason to believe, for example, that already anxious and/or introverted children might be less resilient to scary content,” Field said.
The researchers did emphasize that current television guidelines often focus more on the violent content of a show while not always taking into account the non-violent but frightening content that could also have negative impacts, wrote Big Think.
The takeaway from the study can apply to policy-makers in establishing effective TV viewing guidelines. One problem may be that a program is not rated as violent but is still frightening and can have negative impact, Field said.
“Once we know why certain children are more affected by what they watch than others, we can give more specific and useful advice to parents, rather than assuming that all scary TV is bad for all children, which this analysis shows is not the case,” Fields said, according to Big Think.
According to statistics from the Nielsen Co., children ages 2 to 5 watched TV in 2009 for more than 32 hours a week, and kids ages 6 to 8 spent 28 hours a week, wrote Livestrong.com.