TORONTO - At least one Canadian researcher is
panning a new U.S. study that links young people's television
viewing habits with violent behaviour later in life.
The authors of the study, published Friday in the journal
Science, tracked 700 14-year-olds over 17 years. It concluded
that the more TV they watched as adolescents, the more likely they
were to become involved in assaults, fights and robberies as adults.
One of the authors, Jeffrey Johnson, a researcher at Columbia
University in New York, said the study shows parents should limit
the amount of time their children spend watching TV.
But a University of Toronto researcher on Friday dismissed the
idea that television viewing habits can be linked to violent
Although some television programs may be distasteful to parents,
they will not turn their children into anti-social monsters,
according to psychology professor Jonathan Freedom.
"It doesn't tell us anything we didn't know before," Freedman
said. "Television violence and television is not harmful.
"I'm not a great lover of most of what's on television, but it
doesn't make you aggressive; it doesn't make you violent."
Parents' role questioned
Another U.S. researcher suggested Friday that Johnson's results
may say more about the character of the families he studied than the
contents of the TV programs they were watching.
Chris Boyatzis, an associate professor of psychology at Bucknell
University, said it's possible parents who watch a lot of television
are less educated and have lower moral standards than others – which
could explain a tendency toward anti-social behaviour in their
Parents who watch television alongside their sons and daughters
are using up time that could be better spent interacting with them,
Other researchers, however, embraced the idea that TV watching in
itself leads to violent behaviour.
Mark Singer, of Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, said the
new report backed up his own findings. In 1998, Singer's own study
found that violence increased among young people who watched more
than six hours of television a day.
Friday's study showed that about six per cent of young people who
watched less than an hour of television a day became violent later
in life. But the number soared to 30 per cent for those who sat in
front of the TV more than three hours a day.
The rates were markedly different for girls and boys, according
to researchers. They said about nine per cent of boys who watched
less than an hour of TV a day showed violent tendencies later on,
compared to just over two per cent of girls.
For those who watched more than three hours a day, 45 per cent of
boys showed aggressive behaviour later on in life, compared to less
than 13 per cent of the girls.
The results were the same for young people, regardless of whether
they had been violent before the survey began, according to Johnson.
He said that proved the findings were not biased by teens already
prone to aggression.
Written by CBC News Online staff