Children who watch excessive amounts of television are more likely to have
criminal convictions and show aggressive personality traits as adults, a New
Zealand study has found.
The University of Otago study tracked the viewing habits of about 1 000
children born in the early 1970s from when they were aged five to 15, then
followed up when the subjects were 26 years old to assess potential impacts.
The research, published in the US journal "Pediatrics" this week, found a
strong correlation between childhood exposure to television and anti-social
behaviour in young adults.
"The risk of having a criminal conviction by early adulthood increased by
about 30% with every hour that children spent watching television on an average
weeknight," co-author Bob Hancox said.
The study also found excessive TV viewing was linked to aggressive
personality traits and an increased tendency to experience negative
It said the links remained statistically significant even when issues such as
intelligence, social status and parental control were factored in.
"While we're not saying that television causes all anti-social behaviour, our
findings do suggest that reducing television viewing could go some way towards
reducing rates of anti-social behaviour in society," Hancox said.
He said the findings supported the American Academy of Pediatrics'
recommendation that children should watch no more than one to two hours of
quality television programming a day.
What the study found
The study said it was possible that children learned anti-social behaviour by
watching it on TV, leading to emotional desensitisation and the development of
But it said the content of what children were viewing was not the only
factor, highlighting the social isolation experienced by those who spent hours
watching the box.
"It is plausible that excessive television viewing contributes to anti-social
behaviour in ways unrelated to violent content," it said.
"These mechanisms could include reduced social interaction with peers and
parents, poorer educational achievement, and increased risk of
Hancox said the study concentrated on children's viewing habits in the late
1970s and early 1980s, before the advent of personal computers, and further
research was warranted into how such technology affected subsequent
"If you're playing a computer game that not only exposes you to a lot of
violence but actually simulates shooting people then that may be even worse, but
I don't have any data on that," he told Radio New Zealand.