Last month, a team of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) faculty presented its research at the 2016 World Summit on Pediatrics. The annual conference brings together international leaders in the field of pediatrics to share their research and ideas in a stimulating, educational environment.
The TTUHSC El Paso team shared its work on how to curb aggression in young children, a behavior that can lead to mental disorders in adulthood.
“Aggression can start as early as the age of one,” explains Associate Professor Marie Leiner, Ph.D. “So it’s important to catch it early before it becomes a serious issue.”
Along with Psychiatrist Cecilia de Vargas, M.D., and Pediatricians Indu Pathak, M.D., Jesus Peinado, M.D., and Maria Villanos, M.D., Leiner is improving the mental health of children through entertainment-education.
“Media is a powerful tool that we can use to model good behavior,” Leiner says.
The team has been testing this theory through a cartoon series for children. Each episode features a little girl named Didi or a boy named Pepin, who turns into a superhero when other children are misbehaving, such as bullying, lying or stealing. The two characters call attention to the negative behavior and explain its consequences.
The cartoons, which run in English and Spanish, are featured on YouTube channels that the researchers share with health and day care providers, psychologists, hospitals and educators in the U.S. and Latin America. The cartoons can then be integrated into preschool and elementary school students’ curriculum.
The entertainment-education seems to be resonating with children. To date, the channel has received more than 43 million views. Leiner adds that school children often comment on the YouTube videos, saying that they enjoy them and would like to see more.
The research project was well-received at the summit and the team hopes that its work has inspired others to begin using media as a form of educational entertainment to help children.