Does watching violent TV lead to a life of crime?

Goodnight-iPad1Two studies, which appear in the March issue of the journal, Pediatrics, raise some intriguing questions about our kids and their ubiquitous screens.

One study, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, compared preschoolers who viewed violent televised programs to those who watched non-violent programs that promoted healthy social interactions. The result? The kids who watched a “healthy” media diet imitated the good behaviors they saw on TV and the other kids acted more aggressively. The behavior changes were still significant six months later. Clearly, all TV is educational…it just depends on what you want your kids to learn! When children view these shows, they think they are getting a glimpse of the real world. So, it is a reminder to parents to decide who they want their children’s role models to be.

Another study out of New Zealand looked at the long term impact of too much screen time. Researchers found that the more  hours of TV a child watched was directly associated with an increased likelihood of antisocial behavior and criminal acts as adults. But, is this the chicken or the egg? Does excessive screen time cause a child to become a threat to society? Or, are screens an escape for children with mental health issues or a chaotic home environment (abusive situations, or lack of parental involvement)..and those underlying issues are what lead to problems down the road? The study does not answer those questions, but certainly raises them.

Take home message: Take a look at both the quality and the quantity of screen time your kids are exposed to.