- The Washington Times - Friday, March 29, 2002

A new study linking increased aggressive behavior to adolescent television watching is adding credence to recommendations that parents strictly limit how much time young people spend in front of the tube.
"The evidence has gotten to the point where it's overwhelming," said Jeffrey G. Johnson of Columbia University, lead author of a study that found watching more than one hour of TV daily is followed by increases in the rate of assaults, fights, robberies and other aggressive acts in later years.
L. Rowell Huesmann of the University of Michigan said he was impressed by Mr. Johnson's findings, which expand on earlier studies. "Children who grow up watching more TV violence are at increased risk for aggressive and violent behavior in young adulthood," he said.
Mr. Johnson's research team studied more than 700 people for 17 years.
The increase in aggressive behavior with more TV held true both for people who had previous violent incidents and for those who had not had shown earlier aggression. That means the findings are not merely the result of people already prone to violence being more avid viewers.
"Our findings suggest that, at least during early adolescence, responsible parents should avoid permitting their children to watch more than one hour of television a day," said Mr. Johnson.
While other studies have linked watching violent television to later aggressive behavior, Mr. Johnson said this is the first to investigate the total amount of time individuals spent watching and to follow those people over many years.
"I was surprised to see a five-fold increase in aggressive behavior from less than one hour to three or more hours," Mr. Johnson said in a telephone interview. "I found that quite remarkable."
The study appears today in the latest issue of the journal Science.
Among youths who watched less than an hour of television daily at age 14, just 5.7 percent were involved in aggressive acts by the ages of 16 to 22, the study found.
But for those who watched between one and three hours the aggression rate jumped to 22.5 percent, and the rate was 28.8 percent for those who watched three hours or more, the study found.
The effect was most pronounced for boys, with rates of 8.9 percent committing aggressive acts for those who watched less than an hour of TV at age 14, to 32.5 percent for one to three hours, and 45.2 percent for those watching more than three hours of television. For girls the rates were 2.3 percent, 11.8 percent and 12.7 percent.
Mr. Huesmann said a notable contribution of the Johnson study is that it related the simple amount of TV viewing to later aggressive and violent behavior, while previous studies have concentrated on violent programming.
The study also looked at young adults, measuring television time at age 22 and the odds of a violent or aggressive acts by age 30.
Overall, just 7.2 percent of 22-year-olds who watched less than an hour of TV daily were later involved in aggressive acts. For those watching one to three hours the rate rises to 9 percent, and at more than three hours it's 17.8 percent.

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