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Does TV Teach Kids How To Be Bullies?

Last week, I posted some frightening numbers about the amount of time kids spend in front of the television, not only to watch mind-numbing fare filled with fast-food commercials but to play video games and eat their meals. A new study by researchers at the University of Washington links the amount of television a child watches by the time he or she turns 4 to their likelihood of becoming a bully.

Scientists compared existing data from a national study of more than 1,250 four-year-olds to follow-up reports with their mothers later on (between ages 6-11), specifically to learn if their kids had become crueler to others or had indeed become bullies.

The numbers cited are even more frightening than those from a week ago:

  • Four-year-olds were 25 percent more likely to become bullies if they watched merely the average daily amount of television -- 3.5 hours!
  • Kids who watched eight hours of TV a day were 200 percent more likely to become bullies.
  • Thirteen percent* of the kids surveyed eventually became bullies.

Unlike other studies about the "idiot box," there were a couple of bright spots, however. Kids who received cognitive stimulation -- exposing children to new ideas by reading aloud to them or taking trips to museums -- and emotional support from their parents -- talking regularly as well as eating meals together -- were almost a third less likely to become bullies.

If you're limited by economics or transportation in finding fun alternatives to the television, one of the more popular articles I've posted about this important topic lists 20 activities you can do with your kids that have nothing to do with driving or spending money, and have everything to do with spending something far more valuable than money: Quality time.

Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, April 2005, Vol. 159, No. 4: 384-388

New Scientist April 5, 2005

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