Childhood exposure to TV linked to bullying

April 17, 2005
In an Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine report, economist Frederick J. Zimmerman Ph.D. and colleagues at the University of Washington, in Seattle, found there is a statistically significant relationship between bullying behavior by adolescents and the amount of TV they watched. While previous studies linking the phenomenon have been done before, this study used data from a US national longitudinal survey involving 1,266 four-year-olds, to provide what authors describe as "empirical support to theories that suggest that bullying might arise out of cognitive deficits as well as emotional ones," according to NewsWise.

Of mothers who reported their children displaying bullying behavior, the study found that those watching 3.5 hours of TV a day were 25% more likely to bully, while those watching 8 hours or more were 200% more likely. The report based its findings on statistics of TV watching by children at age 4, and then compared that history to reports by mothers of their child's behavior between the ages of 6 to 11.

“The magnitude of the risk associated with television… is clinically significant,” the report's authors wrote. Bullying behavior by school children is thought by some to be a health problem.

The study also assessed parental factors that reduced the negative impact of watching television. These included taking children on outings and activities, reading to them, and regularly exposing them to new ideas. Results suggest that children receiving cognitive support were a third less likely to become bullies.

Another parental factor looked at was providing emotional support. Simple things like eating together and talking about topics important to children were found to have an effect.