Excessive TV linked to antisocial behaviour

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2013, 10:00am

Video killed the radio star - and television could be harming your child's social skills.

A new study published online in the journal Pediatrics has found that children and adolescents who watch a lot of television are more likely to indulge in antisocial and criminal behaviour when they become adults.

Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand came to the conclusion after following a group of about 1,000 children born in Otago's capital, Dunedin, in 1972 and 1973. Between the ages of five and 15, the children were polled every two years on how much television they watched.

Every hour that children spent watching television on an average weeknight represented about a 30 per cent increase in the risk of having a criminal conviction by early adulthood, say the researchers.

Watching TV excessively during childhood was also linked to the development of more aggressive personality traits during adulthood, including an increased tendency to experience negative emotions and an increased risk of antisocial personality disorder.

Children who watched a lot of television were likely to go on to manifest antisocial behaviour and personality traits
Study co-author Lindsay Robertson

The researchers found that the relationship between television viewing and antisocial behaviour was not explained by socio-economic status, the presence of aggressive or antisocial behaviour during early childhood, or parenting factors.

A study co-author, Lindsay Robertson, says it is not that children who were already antisocial watched more television, but "rather, children who watched a lot of television were likely to go on to manifest antisocial behaviour and personality traits".

As the study was based purely on observation, the results cannot prove that watching too much television caused the antisocial outcomes.

But the findings are consistent with what many previous studies have found, and provides further evidence that excessive television can have long-term consequences for behaviour.

"Antisocial behaviour is a major problem for society. While we're not saying that television causes all antisocial behaviour, our findings do suggest that reducing TV viewing could go some way towards reducing rates of antisocial behaviour in society," says study co-author, associate professor Bob Hancox.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should watch no more than one to two hours of quality television programming each day.