Kids below the age of 5, who watch TV for three or more hours a day are more likely to develop antisocial behaviours, like fighting or stealing by the age of seven, a research has claimed.
But the authors said that the chances are very small, they additionally found that time spent playing computer/electronic games had no effect on behaviour.
They asserted that prolonged screen viewing time has previously been linked to various behavioural and emotional problems in children, but most research focused exclusively on TV, and almost all of it was carried out in the US.
They wanted to explore what psychological and social impact time spent watching TV and playing electronic games may have on kids aged between five and seven.
For this they included a sample of just over 11,000 children, all of whom were part of the Millennium Cohort Study, which has been tracking the long term health and development of UK children born between 2000 and 2002.
Using a validated Strengths and Difficulties (SDQ) questionnaire, the kids’ mothers were asked to describe how well adjusted their kids were when they were 5 and then again when they were 7.
The questionnaire had five scales, measuring conduct problems, emotional symptoms, poor attention span/hyperactivity, difficulties making friends, and empathy and concern for others.
Mothers were also asked to tell for how much time did their kids watch TV and play computer and electronic games at the age of five.
When they were five, almost two thirds of the children watched TV for 1-3 hours a day, with 15 percent watching more than three hours and less than 2 percent watched no TV.
After taking account of influential factors, including parenting and family dynamics, watching TV for three or more hours a day was significantly associated with a very small increased risk of antisocial behaviour between the five and seven year olds.
The scientists said that the heavy screen time and mental health may be indirect, rather than direct, like increased sedentary behaviour, sleeping difficulties, and impaired language development, and that the kids’ own temperament may predict screen time habits.
The research has been published in Archives of Disease in Childhood.