The following is excerpted from an online article posted by MedicalXpress.
Watching violent TV during the preschool years can lead to later risks of psychological and academic impairment by the summer before middle school starts, according to a new study led by Linda Pagani, a professor at Université de Montréal’s School of Psycho-Education.
The study was published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
Before now, “it was unclear to what extent exposure to typical violent screen content in early childhood—a particularly critical time in brain development—can predict later psychological distress and academic risks,” said Pagani.
Pagani and her team examined the violent screen content that parents reported their children viewing between ages 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 and then conducted a follow-up when the children reached age 12.
At the follow-up, two reports were taken: first, of what teachers said they observed, and second, of what the children themselves, now at the end of grade 6, described as their psychological and academic progress.
“Compared to their same-sex peers who were not exposed to violent screen content, boys and girls who were exposed to typical violent content on television were more likely to experience subsequent increases in emotional distress,” said Pagani.
They also experienced decreases in classroom engagement, academic achievement, and academic motivation by the end of the sixth grade,” she added. “For youth, transition to middle school already represents a crucial stage in their development as adolescents. Feeling sadness and anxiety and being at risk academically tends to complicate their situation.”
“Preschool children tend to identify with characters on TV and treat everything they see as real,” Pagani said. “They are especially vulnerable to humorous depictions of glorified heroes and villains who use violence as a justified means to solve problems.
“Repeated exposure,” she added, “to rapidly paced, adrenaline-inducing action sequences and captivating special effects could reinforce beliefs, attitudes and impressions that habitual violence in social interactions is ‘normal.’ Mislearning essential social skills can make it difficult to fit in at school.”