NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 21, 2006

Researchers recently confirmed the distracting power of television; specifically they found that children watching cartoons suffered less pain from a hypodermic needle than kids not watching TV.

Carlo Bellieni, neonatologist and pediatrician at the University of Siena in Italy, led a study involving 69 children, ages 7 to 12, who were separated into three groups and then asked to rate their pain on a numerical scale when they were stuck with needle used to take a blood sample. The children's mothers also rated the kids' pain.  The results:

  • Those watching TV cartoons reported half the pain as those who were being soothed by Mom.
  • When compared with children who just sat in a hospital room with mothers who didn't try to soothe them, the TV watchers reported one-third the pain.

Dr. Brenda McClain, director pediatric pain management services at Yale University, who was not part of the Italian study, said the Bellieni's effect may not be just television, but any kind of distraction.

But it has to be passive distraction like television, not one requiring children to do anything because when they are asked to play, their reported pain levels go up, a study last year found, said Dr. Stephen Hays, director of pediatric pain services at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.

"The power of television is strong and it can be harmful for children if it is stronger than the force made by the mother to distract children," Bellieni warns. "I believe that this power must be controlled and reduced."

Source: Seth Borenstein, "TV found to be a painkiller for children," USA Today, August 18, 2006

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