Does television make toddlers more aggressive?

Originally published in Insidermedicine

Both watching television and having a television on in the household are associated with a higher level of aggression in three-year-olds, according to research published in the latest issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Here are some tips for managing television exposure among your children:

• Limit TV, movies, computer game, and video game use to no more than 1-2 hours per day.

• Plan what you will watch in advance, rather than flipping channels with your child

• Watch TV with your children and discuss what they see

Researchers from the University at Albany explored the relationship between aggressive childhood behavior and television use among over 3,000 mothers who gave birth to children between 1998 and 2000 in one of 20 large U.S. cities. The parents reported on how much the children watched television daily as well as how often the television was used at home, overall. At age three, the children were tested for aggressiveness using a 15-item scale.

As expected, recent spanking, living in a disorderly neighborhood, depression in the mother, and stress among the parents were all linked with a higher degree of aggressive behavior in the three-year-old children. Both watching television and having the television in use in the household were also associated with childhood aggression, even after taking into account these other factors.

Today’s research confirms previous reports that watching TV is associated with aggression in children and identifies a new risk factor: household TV use. The reason for the association between aggressive behavior and television use remains unclear, however.

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