While parents may find it a pain to have their children watching TV all the time, their kids are likely numb to it while parked in front of the tube.
A University of Siena study published in the latest issue Archives of Disease in Childhood, suggests that watching TV is more effective in alleviating pain for children than a mother's attention.
The intent of the study was to see whether active distractions, a mother's hugs and support, or passive distractions, TV, is more effective in helping children cope with minor medical procedures.
"We know the importance of parents' collaboration in helping children to cope with pain by just their presence," the study reports. "We are also aware of the power of television to capture children's attention."
The Italian researchers took three groups of children between the ages of 7 and 12, and had them self-evaluate their pain while having their blood taken. Their mothers were also asked to give an assessment of their children's pain levels after the procedure.
The control group was left without any distractions while having their blood taken, the second group was interacting with their mothers, being cuddled or hugged, and the final group was parked in front of a TV. Mothers were on hand for the groups left on their own and watching TV, but were told not to interact with their children during the procedure.
The children without distraction recorded the highest level of pain -- nearly three times the levels of those in front of the TV. Those who were given attention from their mothers reported more than twice the pain levels of the TV group.
Similar results were found when the mother's evaluated their children.
"Mothers' and children's scores indicated that venipuncture was significantly less painful in the TV group in controls," the study says. "Our study suggests that in primary school aged children watching television may reduce distress during venipuncture more than maternal attempts at distraction."