Two weeks ago, I posted an article published in the NY Times about a study that showed that prosocial, educational television can reduce aggressive behaviors in children. The study (and article) boasted how important this study was due to its randomized trial in while participants were randomly given a push toward a particular type of content or not. 

But an article published this week on Psychology Today begins to poke holes at this study. How were the child’s TV habits reported? By the parents! So, when a parent is told to have their child watch certain content, how likely are they to say that they DIDN’T actually have their child watch that content. This phone conversation used to dispense and gather information during the testing is telling:

Researcher: Numerous studies have linked television to childhood obesity, aggression, stunted cognitive development, attentional deficits, criminal behavior….I cannot stress enough the importance of choosing quality shows for your child. I will help you make good choices. Did I mention you should be monitoring your child’s viewing behavior for the sake of his future health and safety? 

Parent: Uh-huh

Researcher: So, what has your kid been watching?

Parent: Um, Sesame Street?

Well, what did they expect them to say!? It’s a shame that this study is so unreliable, but it is even more of a shame that I, as a reader and a child development major, was tricked by the positive spin of a newspaper article. It just goes to show how powerful a big name like the NY Times is when a reader who has studied how to find “holes” in studies takes the well-known paper’s report on the research at face value. Lesson learned! (Although, let’s face it, journalists are good; I’m sure I’ll be tricked again)

But WAIT… how do I know if THIS article is a spin? 

See the Psychology Today article here.