In a new study conducted by the University of Montreal, researchers find that young children who watch too much TV may be more likely to become anti-social and violent when they become teens.
The research is published in Psychological Medicine. The study tries to answer how excessive TV viewing in early childhood can adversely affect social interactions.
Early childhood is a very important time for the development of brain functions, especially self-regulation of emotional intelligence.
In the study, parents of the 991 girls and 1,006 boys reported the number of hours their children spent watching television at two and half years.
At 13 years, the same children rated their relational difficulties associated with victimization, social isolation, and intentional as well as planned aggression by peers, and antisocial behaviour.
The result showed that children who watched a lot of TV were more likely to stay alone, bully other children, and show aggressive and antisocial behaviour when they were in middle school.
Researchers suggest that transition to middle school is a crucial stage in adolescent development.
Excessive TV viewing at age 13 tends to complicate the situation, posing additional risks of social impairment.
The finding is important for individual and community health, because it detects early modifiable factors that influence later child well-being.
Researchers also mention that establishing strong peer relationships, getting along well with others, and building a positive group social identity are essential elements in the successful transition to adolescence.
The basis of the successful peer relationships is early-developed social skills such as sharing, appreciation, and respect gained from others.
In early childhood, the number of waking/studying hours in a day is limited. Thus, the more time children spend in front the TV, the less time they have for developing these social skills.
Future work will help children have an active daily life at the preschool age and develop essential social skills that will be useful later and ultimately play a key role in personal and economic success.
Citation: Pagani LS, et al. (2016). Prospective associations between televiewing at toddlerhood and later self-reported social impairment at middle school in a Canadian longitudinal cohort born in 1997/1998. Psychological Medicine, 13:1-9. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0033291716001689.
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