Too Much TV Has Little Impact On A Child’s Social Development
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A recent study from University of Otago, New Zealand, published in the journal Pediatrics, suggested that too much TV was making kids mean and antisocial. The results of that study also showed that it was not always how much TV, but what types of shows they were watching.
However, a new study by the Medical Research Council (MRC) has found evidence that spending hours in front of the TV or playing video/computer games each day does not have as much of an influence on a child´s social development as previously suggested.
In a study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, researchers from the MRC examined primary school students and found there is no significant link between watching TV and bad behavior.
The study authors said for children who watch TV for 3 or more hours per day there was a slight increase in the risk of developing anti-social behaviors — such as stealing, bullying or fighting — by the age of seven. However, other influences, such as bad parenting styles may explain the link more.
The MRC team also found no link between the amount of time playing video games and increases in bad behavior.
In the past, prolonged TV viewing has been linked to various behavioral and emotional problems in children, said the authors, but most research has focused exclusively on TV. The MRC study looked more at TV viewing and playing video games in respect to a psychological and social impact in children between five and seven years old.
For the study, Dr. Alison Parkes and her colleagues followed 11,000 children who were part of the UK Millennium Cohort Study, which has been tracking the long-term health and development of UK children born between 2000 and 2002. When these children reached age five and then again at seven, their parents were asked to describe how well adjusted their kids were, using a Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ).
The SDQ contained five scales, measuring conduct, emotional symptoms, poor attention span, difficulties in making friends, and empathy and concern for others. The mothers were also asked to report how much time their children spent watching TV and playing computer and electronic games at the age of five.
At age five, nearly two-thirds of the kids watched TV for between one and three hours per day, with 15 percent watching more than three hours. Less than 2 percent watched none at all. As for playing video games, the authors found that only 3 percent of five-year-olds spent three or more hours per day on this activity.
After taking influential factors into account, including parenting and family dynamics, watching TV for three or more hours per day was associated with a very small increased risk of antisocial behavior between the ages of five and seven.
But the authors found no links between spending excess time in front of the tube and emotional or attention issues. And spending time playing video games had no impact. They noted that the link between heavy screen time and mental health may be indirect, rather than direct, such as increased sedentary behavior, difficulty sleeping, and impaired language development.
Dr. Parkes said it is wrong to blame social problems on TV. “We found no effect with screen time for most of the behavioral and social problems that we looked at and only a very small effect indeed for conduct problems, such as fighting or bullying.”
“Our work suggests that limiting the amount of time children spend in front of the TV is, in itself, unlikely to improve psychosocial adjustment,” she told BBC´s Michelle Roberts.
Professor Annette Karmiloff-Smith, of Birkbeck, University of London (BBK), said that researchers should focus more on the positive impact watching TV and playing video games may have on children, rather than the possible adverse effects.
“We are living in a world that is increasingly dominated by electronic entertainment, and parents are understandably concerned about the impact this might be having on their children’s well-being and mental health,” said Professor Hugh Perry, chair of the MRC’s neurosciences and mental health board. “This important study suggests the relationship between TV and video games and health is complex and influenced by many other social and environmental factors.”
“[The study] suggests that a cautionary approach to the heavy use of screen entertainment in young children is justifiable in terms of potential effects on well-being, particularly conduct problems, in addition to effects on physical health and academic progress shown elsewhere,” Parkes and her research team concluded.