“Children who watched a lot of television growing up were more likely to prefer solitude, experience peer victimisation, and adopt aggressive and antisocial behaviour toward their peers at the end of the first year of middle school,” said lead researcher Linda Pagani, Professor at University of Montreal in Canada.
For the study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, the researchers examined data from a Quebec longitudinal cohort born in 1997/1998.
Parents of the 991 girls and 1,006 boys from the study reported the number of hours their children spent watching television at two and half years.
At 13 years, the same children rated their relational difficulties associated with victimisation, social isolation, intentional and planned aggression by peers, and antisocial behaviour.
The team then analysed the data to identify any significant link between such problems and early televiewing, discarding many possible confounding factors.
The team examined the parent-reported televiewing habits of the children at age two, as well as the self-reported social experiences of these children at age 13.
“Transition to middle school is a crucial stage in adolescent development. We observed that excessive televiewing at age 13 tends to complicate the situation, posing additional risks of social impairment,” Pagani noted.
Social skills such as sharing, appreciation, and respect gained from others are rooted in early childhood, Pagani said. “In toddlerhood, the number of waking hours in a day is limited. Thus, the more time children spend in front the TV, the less time they have for creative play, interactive activities, and other fundamental social cognitive experiences,” she explained.
“Active daily life at the preschool age can help develop essential social skills that will be useful later and ultimately play a key role in personal and economic success,” Pagani pointed out.