Criminality linked to kids' TV time

By Sonya Bateson

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Are children who watch too much television more likely to become criminals? A new study says yes, but Bay of Plenty residents are sceptical.

A University of Otago study indicated children and adolescents who watched a lot of television were more likely to become involved in antisocial and criminal behaviour as adults.

Researchers found the risk of a criminal conviction by early adulthood increased by about 30 per cent with every hour children spent watching television on an average week-night.

And watching more television in childhood was associated, later, with aggressive personality traits and an increased tendency to experience negative emotions.

Katikati mother Jessica Steel said her family didn't watch television.

She said the family weren't in the "dark ages" as they still had cellphones, iPads and computers but she thought children could become desensitised to many things through watching television.

"Most of it is fiction with those graphic images, then there's hype on the news so things that are really horrific and a big deal they say they've seen before, their sense of reality is skewed."

Ms Steel said the family did not have time to watch television and they liked to have a choice about what they watched.

"We have a television and a DVD player and we hire movies from the library to watch. I think by having a choice of what we're watching, we have more control over what the kids are seeing, rather than just sitting down and watching it with ads and everything we don't have a choice about seeing."

Ms Steel said her two children were more active as a result and hoped they would be more creative by utilising their imaginations more to keep themselves busy.

"It makes them have to think about what they want to do with their time. TV is an easy thing, you don't have to use your brain, just sit there."

Gate Pa's Jasmine Haywood said while television could be detrimental to a child, letting children spend some time in front of the television meant she could have some time to herself.

"I am a teacher in training and I know television can have a detrimental effect on a child's social, learning and behavioural abilities, but I believe in everything in moderation. I watched more TV than a few hours a night when I was a kid and I'm not a criminal."

Ms Haywood said she thought there must be other factors than too much television to turn a child into a criminal.

"But I do agree too much is bad, if you're just going to sit them there all day then that's wrong. Instead of that, take your kids for a walk, ride a bike, get out your alphabet chart and go through that with them.

"Or take them to a park, it's the same thing as having them watch TV, you can take them there and sit there while they play."

Western Bay of Plenty Principal Association president Robert Hyndman said while he had not seen the research, children who stayed up later to watch television were more likely to have behavioural issues.

"Children who stay up too late, it could be to watch television or play electronic games, are probably going to be less engaged in their learning and have behavioural issues.

"When a child has a reasonable bedtime and meal times, you notice children do better."

He said it made sense that children who were more active were more engaged in their learning.

"Having said that, I doubt that children who are watching David Attenborough' s Africa are affected negatively, some children have their knowledge improved by it," he said.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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