A Little TV Not That Bad

TV watching over three hours daily by kids linked to slight increase in antisocial behavior

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It's still not clear what kind of effects watching too much TV or playing video games can have on children. There are many different factors researchers have to consider.

One recent study looked at young children's TV and video game habits over a two-year period. They found that only kids watching over three hours of TV a day had any differences in their behavior.

The behavior problems in those children were only slightly higher than in kids who watched less TV. And playing video games did not seem linked to behavior at all in these young children.

"Limit kids' screen time to an hour a day."

The long-term study, led by Alison Parkes, of the Medical Research Council at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom, looked at what behaviors were linked to young children's playing video games or watching TV for long periods of time.

The researchers collected data from the moms of 11,014 children regarding how many hours a day their 5-year-olds played video games or watched television. Watching TV included television, videos or DVDs, and video games included game consoles and computer games.

The researchers then gave the mothers a questionnaire called the "Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire" to assess the children's behavior issues, emotional symptoms, difficulties with peers, hyperactivity or attention difficulties and "prosocial" behavior.

Prosocial behavior refers to behaviors that show a person's concern for others, such as helping others, sharing, donating, cooperating, following directions and similar behaviors.

The mothers filled out these questionnaires for their children when the kids were age 5 and 7. Then the researchers analyzed how TV watching or video game playing related to the children's scores.

The results showed that most of the children watched TV between one and three hours per day when they were 5. Only 2 percent watched no TV, and about 15 percent watched more than 3 hours a day. Only 3 percent spent more than 3 hours playing video games per day.

The researchers found that 5-year-old children who watched TV for more than three hours a day had a slight increase in behavior problems by age 7 compared to kids who watched less than an hour a day when they were 5.

The researchers did not find any link between the number of hours 5-year-olds spent playing video games and their behavior scores at age 7.

The researchers also did not find any links between how much time 5-year-olds spent watching TV and emotional symptoms, hyperactivity or attention issues or problems in peer relationships when the kids were 7.

There was also no apparent link between the amount of time the kids watched TV at age 5 and how prosocial they were or were not when they were 7.

When the researchers compared the boys to the girls in the study, they saw no differences in the links.

Therefore, the researchers found that "TV but not electronic games predicted a small increase in conduct problems." However, the researchers were not sure what caused the small increase.

They suggested that watching TV for lengthy periods of time may involve negative effects such as extra sedentary time, sleeping issues or slower language development.

The researchers also noted that a child's natural temperament, independent of their environment or exposures, might lead them to watch more or less TV and account for some of the results seen.

The study was published March 25 in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood. The research was funded by the United Kingdom Medical Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council and various UK government agency funders. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 25, 2013
Last Updated:
March 25, 2013