(HealthDay News) – Children and adolescents who watch more television have an increased likelihood of antisocial behavior in early adulthood; and, the content of television impacts behavior in preschool-aged children, according to two studies published online Feb. 18 in Pediatrics.

Lindsay A. Robertson, MPH, from the Dunedin School of Medicine in New Zealand, and colleagues examined whether television viewing from age 5–15 years correlated with antisocial behavior in young adulthood using data from 1,037 individuals born in 1972–1973. The researchers found that, compared with those who viewed less television, young adults who had spent more time watching television during childhood and adolescence were significantly more likely to have a criminal conviction, a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, and more aggressive personality traits, even after adjustment for sex, IQ, socioeconomic status, previous antisocial behavior, and parental control.

Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, from the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial involving 565 parents of 3–5-year-old children from community pediatric practices. Without attempting to reduce screen time, a media diet intervention was implemented, whereby high-quality prosocial and educational programming was substituted for aggression-laden programming. At six months, the researchers observed significant improvements in the overall mean Social Competence and Behavior Evaluation score, as well as in the externalizing and social competence subscales. The effect for the internalizing subscale was positive but not significant. The effect sizes were not noticeably smaller at 12 months, but the effect on the externalizing subscale was no longer significant.

“Although television is frequently implicated as a cause of many problems in children, our research indicates that it may also be part of the solution,” Christakis and colleagues conclude.

Abstract – Robertson
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Abstract – Christakis
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