20 February 2013

Excessive TV Exposure Produces Criminals

TV and Children
There was a time that television in the Philippines only offered 4 channels for viewing. Pick any major historical event during the past 60 years and chances are you may have witnessed it happening on those four major networks. Unfortunately, because of their limited coverage, there was no choice during some lull moments in television programming but to endure long hours of rehash programs that included movie shows that are still in black and white color.

Those days are gone. The television set, which has become a permanent fixture in most Filipino household today, had generated a shared consciousness that transcended economic and social strata. Majority can afford one and can access 80-100 channels easily.

However, with the progress in television technology and programming, comes a warning. Children exposed to excessive amounts of television are more likely to have criminal convictions and show aggressive personality traits as adults.

A study by the University of Otago in New Zealand tracked the viewing habits of about 1,000 children born in the early 1970s from when they were aged five to 15, then followed up when the subjects were 26 years old to assess potential impacts.

The research, published in the US journal "Pediatrics" this week, found a strong correlation between childhood exposure to television and anti-social behavior in young adults.

"The risk of having a criminal conviction by early adulthood increased by about 30 percent with every hour that children spent watching television on an average weeknight," co-author Bob Hancox said.

The study also found excessive TV viewing was linked to aggressive personality traits and an increased tendency to experience negative emotions.

It said the links remained statistically significant even when issues such as intelligence, social status and parental control were factored in.

"While we're not saying that television causes all anti-social behaviour, our findings do suggest that reducing television viewing could go some way towards reducing rates of anti-social behavior in society," Hancox said.

He said the findings supported the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation that children should watch no more than one to two hours of quality television programming a day.

The study said it was possible that children learned anti-social behavior by watching it on TV, leading to emotional desensitisation and the development of aggressive behavior.

But it said the content of what children were viewing was not the only factor, highlighting the social isolation experienced by those who spent hours watching the box.

"It is plausible that excessive television viewing contributes to anti-social behavior in ways unrelated to violent content," it said.

"These mechanisms could include reduced social interaction with peers and parents, poorer educational achievement, and increased risk of unemployment."

Hancox said the study concentrated on children's viewing habits in the late 1970s and early 1980s, before the advent of personal computers, and further research was warranted into how such technology affected subsequent behavior.

"If you're playing a computer game that not only exposes you to a lot of violence but actually simulates shooting people then that may be even worse, but I don't have any data on that," he told Radio New Zealand.

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