"The findings support a lot of other research that indicates that watching a lot of television in childhood can lead to antisocial behavioral problems later in life," said study co-author Dr. Bob Hancox, an associate professor in the department of preventive and social medicine at the University of Otago in Dunedin.
The study is unusual because 27 percent of the males had a criminal conviction by age 26, and a remarkable 19 percent of them were convicted of a violent crime. Hancox, however, said the researchers don't think these numbers are especially high.
The study authors don't know if the television that the children watched was especially violent; the country only had two channels at the time, and many shows were from overseas, Hancox said. "We cannot say from our study whether it is the violent content or just watching TV that is most important," he added.
In the U.S. study, the Seattle researchers analyzed what happened to 565 kids aged 3 to 5 who were randomly assigned to watch either regular programs on TV or educational and "pro-social" programming. In essence, the idea was to substitute shows like "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" for "Power Rangers," Christakis said.
After six months, those who watched the educational programming scored better on a test of "social competence and behavior" that was given to their parents.
It's not clear what the score difference made for the children in real life. However, the tests aimed to examine things such as whether kids are cooperative, non-aggressive and non-argumentative.
Christakis noted that these traits aren't signs of docile children. "I view them as desirable," he said.
The big message is that the kind of television that kids watch matters, he added.
"All television is educational. It's just a matter of what it's teaching," Christakis said.
In an editorial accompanying the studies, which are schedul
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