TV breeds criminals?

Children who watched more television showed criminal tendencies in adulthood

Children watching TV

The journal Pediatrics has recently published online a study done in University of Otago, New Zealand, that correlates the TV-time in childhood to anti-social behaviour in adulthood.

The research team studied about a 1000 children who were born in the New Zealand city of Dunedin in 1972-73. Every couple of years between the ages of 5 and 15, the kids were asked about the period of time for which they watched television. The results revealed that those kids who watched more television were more likely to be convicted as criminals and as adults they were more likely to behave in an antisocial manner.

On an average, every hour that a child spends watching TV on a weeknight increases the chances of that kid turning out to be a criminal by 30 per cent, as per co-author of the study, Bob Hancox.

Also, more TV-time meant a heightened risk of developing antisocial personality disorder; a psychiatric disorder that causes regular patterns of aggression and antisocial behaviour. The kids were more likely to experience negative emotions and that may be related to this disorderly behaviour even as adults.

One may argue that kids who were already anti-social watched more TV. But co-author, Lindsay Robertson, clarifies that such is not the case, by saying, "Rather, children who watched a lot of television were likely to go on to manifest antisocial behaviour and personality traits."

This is the first 'real-life' study that has systematically looked at TV viewing throughout the whole childhood period, and studied the range of antisocial outcomes in adulthood. However since it is an observational study, it cannot prove causality; it can only prove an association. The findings, though, are consistent with most of the prior research and provide further evidence that excessive television can have long-term consequences.

"Antisocial behaviour is a major problem for society. While we're not saying that television causes all antisocial behaviour, our findings do suggest that reducing TV viewing could go some way towards reducing rates of antisocial behaviour in society," says Associate Professor Hancox.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should not watch more than 1 - 2 hours of quality television programmes a day. The researchers strongly support the idea that parents should try to limit their children's television use.

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