Too Much TV Time Sets Toddlers Up for Later Bullying

New research has found a correlation between the number of hours spent watching TV at the age of 29 months to the likelihood a child will be bullied in sixth grade.

“It is plausible that early lifestyle habits characterized by less effortful interactive experiences, such as early televiewing, can ultimately result in social skill deficits,” said Professor Linda Pagani, Ph.D., of the University of Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine children’s hospital.

“More time spent watching television leaves less time for family interaction, which remains the primary vehicle for socialization.”

“Early television exposure is also linked with developmental deficits associated with brain functions that drive interpersonal problem solving, emotional regulation, socially competent peer play, and positive social contact,” she continued.

“Finally, TV viewing may lead to poor eye-contact habits — a cornerstone of friendship and self-affirmation in social interaction.”

For the study, Pagani recruited 991 girls and 1,006 boys growing up in Canada. The children’s TV watching habits were reported by their parents and their victimization in the sixth grade was reported by the children.

Children were asked questions such as how often they had belongings taken away from them and how often they were verbally or physically abused, she explained.

“Every standard deviation unit increase of 53 minutes in daily televiewing at 29 months predicted an 11 percent standard deviation unit increase in bullying by sixth grade classmates,” Pagani said.

“This figure takes into account other confounding factors that might influence the likelihood that the child would be bullied, such as his behavior and cognitive abilities and the characteristics of his family — their income, functioning, composition, and the level of the mother’s education.”

Assuming that the programs watched are developmentally appropriate, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that daily television viewing not extend beyond one to two hours a day for children age two and over.

“The AAP recommendations particularly relate to quantity of televiewing time,” she noted. “There are only 24 hours in a day, and for children, half should be spent meeting basic needs — eating, sleeping, hygiene — and the remainder spent on enriching activities and relationships.”

“Because play represents an unstructured activity that does not require direct compliance, it allows children to be creative and provides parents with a chance to get acquainted with how their children perceive and interact with others on a socioemotional level,” she said.

“Having a chance to interact also gives a chance to correct or promote certain social behaviors. Excessive viewing time during the early years can create a time debt for pursuits involving social play.”

Source: University of Montreal