Does childhood TV viewing lead to criminal behavior?

On average, preschool-age children in the United States spend 4.4 hours per day in front of the television
Feb 25, 2013


Two recent studies linking childhood television viewing to antisocial behavior and criminal acts as adults are prompting some pediatricians to call for a national boob-tube intervention.

A commentary published alongside the studies in the journal Pediatrics on Monday lamented the fact that most parents have failed to limit their children's television viewing to no more than one or two hours a day -- a recommendation made by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

On average, preschool-age children in the United States spend 4.4 hours per day in front of the television, either at home or in daycare.

"The problem is, they are not listening," wrote Dr. Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital. "With our society of smartphones and YouTube and video streaming, screen time is becoming more a part of daily life, not less."

Now, based on evidence from a University of Washington study, McCarthy and others say pediatricians should focus instead on the type of television children are viewing. Parents should steer children toward educational or "prosocial" programming instead of shows featuring violence and aggression.

"It is a variation on the 'if you can't beat 'em join 'em' idea," McCarthy wrote. "If the screens are going to be on, let's concentrate on the content, and how we can make it work for children."

The consequences are significant, experts say.

A study conducted by the University of Otago in New Zealand concluded that every extra hour of television watched by children on a weeknight increased by 30 percent the risk of having a criminal conviction by age 26.

The study was based on 1,037 New Zealanders born in 1972 and 1973, and interviewed at regular intervals until age 26. It also involved a review of criminal and mental health records.

"Young adults who had spent more time watching television during childhood and adolescence were significantly more likely to have a criminal conviction, a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder and more aggressive personality traits compared with those who viewed less television," wrote Lindsay Robertson, the lead author and a public health researcher at Dunedin School of Medicine.

In the University of Washington study, researchers devised a "media diet intervention" in which parents were assisted in substituting prosocial and education programming for more violent fare. However, the parents were not asked to reduce their children's total viewing time.

The study involved 565 Seattle-area parents with children ages 3 to 5 and lasted a year. A control group of children were allowed to watch television as they usually did, while the intervention group was steered toward programming that featured nonviolent conflict resolution, cooperative problem solving, manners and empathy. (Examples of such shows included "Dora the Explorer," "Sesame Street" and "Super Why.")

Both groups of children were evaluated for their social competence after six months and after 12 months.

The intervention group showed "significant improvements" in social competence testing scores after six months, wrote Dr. Dimitri Christakis, lead author and pediatrics professor. Low-income boys appeared to benefit the most, authors said.

"Although television is frequently implicated as a cause of many problems in children, our research indicates that it may also be part of the solution," authors wrote.

The authors of both papers noted that the studies were limited in some respects.

Authors of the New Zealand study said it was possible that antisocial behavior itself led to more television viewing.

And authors of the Seattle study noted that while parents were not told of the purpose of the study, they may have figured it out and modified their behavior, biasing the results.


By Monte Morin - Los Angeles Times (MCT)

(c)2013 Los Angeles Times

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Distributed by MCT Information Services







Cliff Cannon

In answer to the headline : " duh "


This website is getting so old!!! I'm going to watch jack@ss with my kids! Duces yo!!


And the prosecution rests...


Here's a partial list of the historical causation for bad behavior:

First it was dime novels, then it was radio, then it was comic books, then movies, then TV and now video games.

During college, I read a translation of a book by Goethe entitled "The Sorrows of Young Werther," wherein the main character eventually commits suicide by gunshot.

After it's publication in 1774, authorities observed an increase in the number of suicides by young people. Many countries banned the novel's sale.

What goes around comes around.

Cliff Cannon

@ Contango: Despite my less than disguised disdain for t.v. I enjoyed and agreed with your partial list of bad behaviors,then toss in my favorites.

I love telling the kids, their great-great grandmother thought Al Jolson was harmful to children and she was right.

Their great grandmother figured Sinatra was the devils tool. Worse,Elvis came straight from the devil

Their grandmother wanted ---very badly-- to cut the Beatles hair before anymore kids saw it.

I am totally convinced that heavy metal as well as gangster rap should be banned as well as burned. So who was right and who was wrong ? :)

P.S. As usual,the answer to such a question can be found amongst the ancients as Plato wrote: " To check the spiritual tempature of the boy,mark his music "


@ CC:

As one who has seen Metallica twice in addition to others, I can't agree about heavy metal.

Remember: Classical music was the popular music of the day and many at the time had similar misgivings.

Cliff Cannon

@ Contango : I wish, when writing some what tongue in cheek. That, the reader could see where my tongue is. :) However,that is why I listed all those generations of complaints. Because,no doubt,all critics do have somewhat of a point,do they not ?

However,the critic ---as I have done, with heavy metal to name one. Misses something,that the listener,doesn't it. And this they do over and over.

Bottom line, in my viewpoint is pretty much exactly what " Propman " wrote---children must be disciplined. It is however,very sad that so often in todays world unguided children are left with T.V.'s for baby sitters. And that is truly,where the problem is I believe.

Back to Plato ( who I believe had no children). He also wrote the " hardest animal to train is the boy "

Perhaps,he wouldn't have felt that way had he taught as Aristotle did ----by walking, talking and teaching. Apparently, Aristotle understood the main problem with teaching young boys: They must be kept busy !

No doubt,Aritotle's mom told him " that idle hands are the devils tools " :)

jack langhals

The same people that danced the Charleston,with the women's skirts flying over their heads said,"Rock and roll was the Devil's Music"

Cliff Cannon

@ Mr. Langhals : Are you trying say humans have had hypocrites in their ranks for a long,long time ? Hope so,because it sure is the truth .

Also got a good one for you.At your age,no doubt, you've used the phrase " 23 skidoo " ? It comes from the " Flat Iron " building in N.Y.C. located on 23rd. and Broadway.

The building is totally cool.When first built,this piece of pie shaped building was the tallest in Manhattan. So it drew crowds. Also, the unique shape caused winds to blow in unique ways.

So 23 rd. st. where the street car stop was,was an extremely busy stop,circa 1910. The lady's ankle length dresses' with a degree of frequency would blow up exposing their ankles,which of course drew the young men.

It also drew the 'beat' cops who would give those gawking,ankle loving young men, " The 23 skidoo " to get rid of those potential trouble makers.

So the more things change,the more they stay the same. Damn hypocrites. :)


...don't forget rock and roll; MTV ruined MY life


Violence on TV does NOT cause violence in life.
Growing up I and everyone else watched Lonny Tunes, Abbout and costello, Three Stooges and all those westerns but we didn't become a violent society from that.
It is that we have not been teaching morals, respect and responcibility to our youth any more.
Violence comes from selfishness and lack of respect for one's self or others.

Cliff Cannon

@ Propman : Very well put


@ CC:

Reminded me of The Lovin' Spoonful's "Younger Generation."

Cliff Cannon

@ Contango : Last time I heard this song, I had hair half down to my rear end. :) " The kids these days " when wasn't that said ?


Yep, Wiley dropping the anvil on Roadrunner and missing ruined me for life...... Bhwaahhh !

Not to mention HR Puffenstuf, Banana Splits and the Groovy Ghoulies...


Forgot to mention unicef


Reminds me of Fredric Wertham's novel "Seduction of the Innocent" when comic books were blamed for juvenile delinquency. Just a bunch of people with paranoia and too much time on their hands.