According to a major study carried out by a New Zealand university over a period of more than 20 years, “Children who watch excessive amounts of television are more likely to have criminal convictions and show aggressive personality traits as adults.” Is that really a surprise?
The study, which was just published in “Pediatrics,” a USA journal, “found a strong correlation between childhood exposure to television and anti-social behaviour in young adults.”
Carried out by the University of Otago, the “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.”
Some of the conclusions of the study could have been expected. For example, the study “found excessive TV viewing was linked to aggressive personality traits and an increased tendency to experience negative emotions.” The study also indicated that, “the links remained statistically significant even when issues such as intelligence, social status and parental control were factored in.”
So, all things being equal, excessive TV-watching by kids has a deleterious effect on their lives. But of course! If Joey is playing chess and Sally is learning to cook with Mom and Jane is reading a historical novel and Jeremy is building a tree house and Billy is watching TV trash by the hour, how could Billy develop into his full potential?
Unremarkably, the study reported that “it was possible that children learned anti-social behaviour by watching it on TV, leading to emotional desensitisation and the development of aggressive behaviour.” It also said that “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.”
Yes, the study observed, “These mechanisms could include reduced social interaction with peers and parents, poorer educational achievement, and increased risk of unemployment.”
Again, this is not rocket science, but having hard data like this, compiled over a period of decades, goes a long way to silence those who claim that there is little or no connection between media violence and real-life violence and anti-social behavior.
But there’s more. According to Bob Hancox, co-author of the study, “The risk of having a criminal conviction by early adulthood increased by about 30 percent with every hour that children spent watching television on an average weeknight.”
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.