Excessive televiewing causes teenage isolation

Children who watch too much television early in their lives are more likely to fall prey to victimization and social isolation, leading to antisocial behavior by the age of 13, a recent study in published in Psychological Medicine reports.

This conclusion was reached through the study of 2-year-old children’s television-viewing habits and reassessing the subjects once they reached adolescence. At the outset of the study, the researchers asked parents questions relating to the amount of time their children spent watching television, including how many hours each child spent watching television on a weekday versus a weekend. This allowed researchers to gain an estimate of how many hours per day each child spent in front of a TV.

At 13 years old, the 991 girls and 1,006 boys participating in the study were asked to self-report their levels of social impairment over the course of the prior six months using a Social Behavior Questionnaire. The questions included topics like feelings of victimization, being actively excluded from a social group, being physically pushed or shoved, being laughed at or mocked and feelings of social isolation. Questions on antisocial behavior were also included, asking each child if they had lied or cheated, committed vandalism, tried to exclude someone from a social group or if they had stolen objects.

Through the answers received from the questionnaire, the researchers discovered that there was a correlation between the amount of television each 2-year-old child watched and the amount of social isolation he or she experienced, with the amount of isolation increasing with each daily hour of television watched.

“Children who watched a lot of television growing up were more likely to prefer solitude, experience peer victimization, and adopt aggressive and antisocial behavior toward their peers at the end of the first year of middle school,” said Linda Pagani, lead author of the study and a professor at the Universite de Montreal.

The researchers suggest that habitually watching too much television can link to a deficit in certain executive functions, including interpersonal problem solving, emotional regulation and social competence. Watching excessive amount of TV robs children of partaking in activities that “require more sustained attention and working memory,” the study asserts. The researchers also theorize that watching excessive amounts of television as a child can create patterns of looking down or away from the eyes of others—as characters on television rarely look directly at the viewer—causing a child to become ostracized from his or her peers.

Parents, the researchers argue, should have a better idea of how their young child spends his or her time throughout the day in order to combat this problem.

“In toddlerhood, the number of waking hours in a day is limited. Thus, the more time children spend in front the TV, the less time they have for ... fundamental social cognitive experiences,” said Pagani.

The study concludes that the entire family has to work together so that children can receive proper social interaction and engagement.