Less Television Viewing Leads to Less Aggression in Children, Study Finds
Reducing the amount of time children watch television and play video games can decrease their aggressiveness, according to a study in yesterday's issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The Washington Times reports that other studies have shown that when children watch "violent media," they become more aggressive, but this study is the "first to show that aggressive behavior can be unlearned by reducing media exposure." Researchers studied about 200 third- and fourth-graders from two San Jose, Calif., public schools during the 1996-1997 school year. One hundred students in one school received six months of classes on media influence and "intelligent" usage and were asked to abstain from TV, videotapes and video games for 10 days and afterwards limit their use to seven hours per week. Students in the other school were part of a control group. The students who received classes and limited their TV viewing reported 25% fewer "acts of aggression" and half the "amount of teasing, threatening and taunting on the playground," compared to the control group (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 1/15). Study author Dr. Tom Robinson of Stanford University said, "Reducing television viewing really will work to decrease kids' aggressive behavior. It's not that once children learn aggressive behavior it becomes their only way of solving problems" (Topousis, New York Post, 1/15). However, Dr. Michael Brody, chair of the medical committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said, "The media is only one factor. ... To me the answer is ... learning about media in school. Kids will remember it ... it's a life skill" (Washington Times, 1/15). The New York Post reports that the study also found that children watching less TV "gained significantly less weight ... and had lower body fat than" those who did not cut down on their TV viewing. Robinson said, "Kids spend more time watching television than doing any other thing besides sleeping. It's not unreasonable to expect that this will translate into large impacts on their health and behavior over time" (New York Post, 1/15).