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A study published in the November 2009 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that three-year-old children who watch television or are even just exposed to household TV use by other family members are significantly more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior than children who are not.
Part of a project out of Princeton University called "The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study", the television study focused on the likely triggers of childhood aggression that often lead to problems later in life including juvenile delinquency, violence, and criminal behavior. Second only to music, television was found to be the element young children between birth and three years old are most exposed to during the early, sensitive years.
Researchers surveyed parents of children who were born between 1998 and 2000 to see if and how often their children were exposed to the television, taking into account other risk behaviors such as a disorderly neighborhood, parental depression, and stress. Following the 36-month evaluation period, researchers found that even when taking other factors into account, TV exposure plays a significant role in encouraging childhood aggression.
Despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children two and younger have no exposure to any sort of screen media, many parents allow their children in this age group to watch TV anyway. About 65 percent of mothers who participated in the study admitted that their three-year-old children watched more than two hours of television a day. The average amount of daily TV exposure among participants' children was over seven hours.
Experts believe that the likely increase in aggression among television-exposed children has to do with the lack of effective parenting that occurs within families that watch excessive amounts of TV. Households that have the TV on all the time are likely unrestrictive with children's viewing habits, allowing young children to watch inappropriate content. Routine eating patterns and effective communication among family members are likely stunted in households with excessive television use.
Parents who are addicted to the television themselves do not interact often enough with their children and are more likely to neglect proper discipline, resulting in increased negative behavior in their children. Children of these types of parents also tend not to read and play outside very much, engaging in far less positive development activities than children whose parents spend time with them and limit or eliminate their exposure to television.