TV Linked to More Child Aggression

3-Year-Olds Who Watch More Television More Likely to Be Aggressive, Study Shows

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 02, 2009

Nov. 2, 2009 -- Parents, here’s one more reason to turn off the television. A new study shows that children who watch more television -- and even those who are exposed to the television while other people in the home are watching -- are more likely to be aggressive.

Researchers examined data on 3,128 3-year-olds. Mothers of the tots answered questions about how much time their children spent watching television during a typical day, as well as how much television the children were indirectly exposed to. Also, the children’s level of aggression was evaluated. The children in the study were born between 1998 and 2000 and came from 20 U.S. cities.

Researchers concluded that 3-year-olds “exposed to more television, directly and indirectly, are at increased risk for exhibiting aggressive behavior.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics already recommends no television time for children under 2. For children 3 and older, the AAP recommends no more than two hours of media time per day. Despite these recommendations, most mothers in the study -- about 65% -- reported that their children were watching more than two hours per day. Besides the direct TV viewing time, children were indirectly exposed to the TV for five hours on average on a typical day. The researchers did not have information on the kind of TV programming viewed.

The findings took into account other factors for childhood aggression, such as parent’s health, other children at home, and neighborhood environment.

Authors wrote that there could be many reasons for the link between television and aggression. Possible reasons are that children who see violence on television become desensitized to it; parents who don’t have limits on television may be less likely to have other rules, such as regular bedtimes; and when children are watching television, they are not participating in other activities that may benefit their social development, such as playing.

Authors called for more research into possible recommendations for general household television use.

Show Sources


News release, Journal of the American Medical Association.

Manganello, J. Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, 2009; vol 163: pp 1037-1045.

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