What a sobering statistic. The child who watches four hours of TV per night has a 120 percent better chance of having “a criminal conviction by early adulthood” than his peers who watch no TV each night. (For those skeptical of these figures, remember the data cited at the beginning of this article: 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.”)
Yet there’s more still. “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 behaviour.”
How much more anti-socialization exists in our society today with the advent of the PC, video games, smart phones, and the like? How many kids today know how to text but not how to talk? How many young people live almost isolated from face to face interaction with their friends and neighbors except for electronic communication or virtual reality?
And then there is the issue of violent content available via PC and internet. As Hancox noted in an interview on Radio New Zealand, “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.”
I think we could save the university the trouble of producing another multi-year study, one that will be outdated before it can be completed. We could simply say, “Take all the data you have about the negative effects of excessive TV watching among kids and multiply it when it comes to total immersion in virtual reality violence.” This way, rather than waiting another 20+ years to confirm what most of us already surmised, we can start to face reality head on.
TV was never a good babysitter. Violent video games – and other asocial media – are an even worse babysitter. This important study from the University of Otago has reinforced what we knew and told us even more than we wanted to know, and while critics of the study will surely tell us that it is terribly flawed, our gut tells us otherwise.
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.