Five year-olds who watch TV for 3+ hours a day more likely to be antisocial

March 25, 2013

Five year-olds who watch TV for three or more hours a day are increasingly likely to develop antisocial behaviours, such as fighting or stealing by the age of seven, indicates research published online in Archives of Disease in Childhood.

But the risk is very small, say the authors, who additionally found that time spent playing computer/ had no impact on behaviour.

Prolonged screen viewing time has been linked to various behavioural and emotional problems in children, say the authors, but most research has focused exclusively on television, and almost all of it has been carried out in the US.

They wanted to explore what psychological and time spent and playing electronic games might have on children between the ages of five and seven.

They included a of just over 11,000 children, all of whom were part of the Millennium Cohort Study, which has been tracking the and development of UK children born between 2000 and 2002.

When they were five and then again when they were seven, the children's mothers were asked to describe how well adjusted their offspring were, using a validated Strengths and Difficulties (SDQ) questionnaire.

This contains five scales, measuring conduct problems, emotional symptoms, poor attention span/hyperactivity, difficulties making friends, and empathy and concern for others (pro-).

The mums were also asked to report how much time their children spent watching TV and playing computer and electronic games at the age of five.

When they were five, almost two thirds of the children watched TV for between one and three hours every day, with 15% watching more than three hours. Less than 2% watched no TV.

But at this age, they spent considerably less time playing electronic games, and only 3% spent three or more hours engaged in this activity every day.

After taking account of influential factors, including parenting and , watching TV for three or more hours a day was significantly associated with a very small increased risk of antisocial behaviour (conduct problems) between the ages of five and seven.

But spending a lot of time in front of the TV was not linked to other difficulties such as or attention issues. And spending time playing electronic games had no similar impact, the analysis showed, although this might reflect the fact that children spent less time playing games than they did watching TV, say the authors.

They point out that the links between heavy screen time and mental health may be indirect, rather than direct, such as increased sedentary behaviour, sleeping difficulties, and impaired language development, and that the child's own temperament may predict screen time habits.

But they conclude that their study "suggests that a cautionary approach to the heavy use of screen entertainment in young children is justifiable in terms of potential effects on wellbeing, particularly conduct problems, in addition to effects on physical health and academic progress shown elsewhere."

Explore further: TV time: Why children watch multi-screens

More information: Do television and electronic games predict children's psychological adjustment? Longitudinal research using the UK Millennium Cohort Study Online First, doi 10.1136/archdischild-2011-301508

Related Stories

TV time: Why children watch multi-screens

August 3, 2011
New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, examines the relationship children have with electronic viewing devices and their habits ...

Excessive TV in childhood linked to long-term antisocial behaviour

February 18, 2013
Children and adolescents who watch a lot of television are more likely to manifest antisocial and criminal behaviour when they become adults, according to a new University of Otago, New Zealand, study published online in ...

Recommended for you

Even babies can tell who's the boss, UW research says

July 27, 2017
The charismatic colleague, the natural leader, the life of the party - all are personal qualities that adults recognize instinctively. These socially dominant types, according to repeated studies, also tend to accomplish ...

Infants know what we like best, study finds

July 27, 2017
Behind the chubby cheeks and bright eyes of babies as young as 8 months lies the smoothly whirring mind of a social statistician, logging our every move and making odds on what a person is most likely to do next, suggests ...

DREAMers at greater risk for mental health distress

July 27, 2017
Immigrants who came to the United States illegally as small children and who meet the requirements of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, more commonly known as DREAMers, are at risk for mental health ...

Negativity, be gone—new online tool can retrain your brain

July 27, 2017
Anxiety and depression can have devastating effects on people's lives. In some cases, the mental disorders lead to isolation, poverty and poor physical health, things that often cascade to future generations.

Research aims to shape more precise treatments for depression in women

July 27, 2017
Among women in the United States, depression is at epidemic levels: Approximately 12 million women in the U.S. experience clinical depression each year, and more than 12 percent of women can expect to experience depression ...

Very preterm birth not associated with mood and anxiety disorders, new research finds

July 27, 2017
Do very-preterm or very-low-weight babies develop anxiety and mood disorders later in life? Julia Jaekel, assistant professor of child and family studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Dieter Wolke, professor ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.