Study: Excessive TV Viewing as a Toddler Can Lead to Bullying Later

Find out why watching too much TV creates future victims of bullying


When toddlers spend more than two hours in front of the television a day, they are more likely to be bullied later in life, according to a recent study. The reason is simple. Television viewing prohibits them from developing crucial social skills that allow them to engage in healthy ways with other children.

In fact, a University of Montreal study found that the number of hours spent watching television at the age of 29 months was linked to the likelihood that they would be bullied when they reached ages 11 and 12.

Additionally, for every 54 minutes the toddler spent glued to the screen, his risk of being bullied later in life increased by over a tenth.

Researchers believe this connection is due to the fact that watching a lot of television makes children more shy, less able to develop healthy friendships and unable to make eye contact with peers. It also robs kids of valuable play time, which is essential to social development.

What’s more, more time spent watching television leaves less time for family interaction, which is the primary way kids are socialized. And the lack of social skills and inability to make eye contact are two factors that increase the risk of being bullied.

How Much Television Is Recommended?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children ages two and older should watch television for no more than one to two hours per day. And when they do watch television, it should be high-quality content that is developmentally appropriate.

In general, children should spend half of the 24 hours in a day meeting basic needs such as eating and sleeping. The remaining hours should be spent on building relationships with family and friends and other enriching activities.

However, the AAP also reports that children in the United States spend an average of seven hours a day using media such as televisions, computers and other electronic devices.

Excessive media use can lead to host of issues including attention problems, weight issues and academic struggles. Early television exposure also is linked to developmental deficits including issues with interpersonal problem solving, emotion regulation and positive social contact.

A Closer Look at the Study

The study's findings, which were published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavior Pediatrics, were based on an analysis of 991 girls and 1006 boys growing up in Canada. The kids’ television viewing habits were reported by their parents while the bullying experiences were self-reported by the kids.

They were asked typical questions about bullying including how often people took their belongings and how often they were verbally bullied or physically bullied. The results also took into account other factors such as the likelihood kids would be bullied based on their behavior, cognitive abilities and family characteristics.

Because bullying consequences can last into adulthood, it is important that parents take steps at an early age to safeguard their kids from bullying.

One way to do that is to limit television viewing time in the early years of life. Other options include building a healthy self-esteem at an early age, encouraging empathy, fostering assertiveness skills and addressing feelings management.   

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