Children who watch a lot of television are more likely to show aggressive, anti-social and criminal behaviour when older, according to a new study
The University of Otago research, published in online American journal Pediatrics, is based on the the tertiary institution's continuing study of 1037 people born in Dunedin in 1972 and 1973.
With an average of eight violent incidents on television per hour, researchers say a child who watches more TV is more likely to end up with negative emotions, an anti-social personality and persistent aggressive behaviour.
The study shows the risk of having a criminal conviction by the age of 26 increased by 30% with every hour children spent watching TV on top of the one to two hours a day recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Lead author Lindsay Robertson says the study is a world first in linking criminal convictions to childhood TV habits and researchers hope it will result in children watching less.
"Basically, people need to be aware of the long-term risks associated with allowing children and adolescents to watch lots of television.
"We don't feel that it's just solely the responsibility of parents - teachers and health professionals could also maybe play a role in trying to promote sensible TV viewing."
Dr Bob Hancox, another author, says while the study does not show television is the cause of all anti-social behaviour, it does suggest that reducing the amount people watch could help lessen this.