TV really does act like a painkiller when it comes to kids, reveals a small study published ahead of print in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
The research team assessed 69 children between the ages of 7 and 12, who were randomly divided into three groups to have a blood sample taken.
One group was given no distraction while the sample was being taken. In the second group mothers attempted to actively distract their children by talking to them, soothing, and/or caressing them.
And in the third group, the children were allowed to watch TV cartoons while the procedure was being carried out.
None of the children was given any form of anaesthesia, and after the samples had been taken, all the children and their mothers then rated their pain scores.
The children recording the highest pain scores were in the group for whom no distraction had been provided. These scores were around three times as high as those recorded by children allowed to watch the TV cartoons.
Middling scores were recorded by those children whose mothers had attempted to actively distract them while the sample was taken.
Although on average, the mothers rated pain scores higher than their children had done, and particularly for their own attempts at distracting their offspring, they nevertheless recorded the lowest pain scores for children who had been allowed to watch TV cartoons.
Pain is stressful for children, even when relatively minor procedures are involved, say the authors, who conclude that the passive distraction of TV is a more effective analgesic than active distraction. Watching TV also seems to increase children's pain tolerance, they add.