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Violence on the screen linked to sleep problems in children

Published: Thursday, Aug. 9 2012 9:36 a.m. MDT

Switching to "Curious George" may help young children sleep better, according to a new study published Monday in the American Academy of Pediatrics. Findings linked watching violent or age-inappropriate media with poor sleep.

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Changing the channel to "Curious George" may help young children sleep better, according to a new study published Monday in the American Academy of Pediatrics. Findings linked watching violent or age-inappropriate media with poor sleep.

The authors of the study divided 565 children and their families into two groups, the Chicago Tribune reported. In one group, the parents of 276 children, ages 3 to 5, were encouraged to show their children only healthy media — "Dora the Explorer," "Sesame Street" and "Curious George" — over a period of six months. The parents of 289 children in the second group were sent healthy eating information instead.

This study shows the media children consume throughout the day has an impact on their sleep. It's not just scary movies before bedtime that keep children up, Dr. Umakanth Khatwa, sleep lab director at Boston Children's Hospital in Massachusetts, told Reuters Health. "What happens once you watch a scary movie, you don't stop thinking about it as a child," Khatwa said.

The children subjected to healthy media alone were 64 percent less likely to have any sleep problems, such as nightmares, trouble falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep, US News reported.

The study's results are drawn from a broader study aimed at increasing "pro-social" behavior (voluntary behavior intended to benefit another) and decreasing aggressive behavior, CNN reported.

“The results of this study are no surprise to me,” clinical psychologist Wendy Walsh told CNN. “Young children are very concrete, literal thinkers. They just don’t get the concept of pretend monsters or pretend violence. Violent media can cause anxiety in small children that can clearly disrupt sleep.”

There are many possibilities, study author Michelle Garrison from the Seattle Children's Research Institute told ABC News. "Trying to reduce media violence is an important goal for all families. And the good news is: There's lots of great, healthy content out there for preschool children, a lot of positive options."

Garrison recommended CommonSenseMedia.org for additional information about media violence, and suggested using the TV rating system to find appropriate content.

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News.

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