Italian doctors report that news in the Archives of Disease in Childhood's online first edition.
The doctors included Carlo Bellieni, MD, of the University of Siena's neonatal intensive care unit.
Bellieni's team studied 69 children who were 7-12 years old. The kids were due to get blood tests.
The children were split into three groups. Their mothers were in the room with them during the blood tests.
One group of kids started watching TV cartoons at least two minutes before the blood test started and throughout the procedure.
Another group of children didn't watch TV. Instead, their mothers tried to distract them during the blood test.
For comparison, the third group of kids didn't watch TV or interact with their moms during the blood test.
Cartoons Help Pain, but Moms Still Important
Right after the blood test, the children rated how painful the test had been. The mothers also rated their child's pain during the test.
The lowest pain ratings came from the kids who had watched TV during the test -- and from their moms.
The other two groups had higher pain ratings, with little difference between the two groups.
In school-aged kids, watching TV may reduce distress "more than maternal attempts at distraction" during blood tests, write Bellieni and colleagues.
But the researchers aren't banishing moms to the waiting room.
"This does not mean that the mothers' presence is negative," Bellieni's team writes. "Although it does not reduce pain, the children will recall that they were not left alone on a stressful occasion."
SOURCES: Bellieni, C. Archives of Disease in Childhood, Aug. 17, 2006; Online First edition. News release, BMJ Specialist Journals.
By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang