Parking your child in front of the TV while you get dinner ready might be fine, but any more than that and your toddler could feel the consequences later—years later. A new study from the University of Montreal showed that young children who spent hours watching TV were more likely to be bullied in sixth grade.
Researchers studied almost 2,000 children growing up in Canada, and asked their parents how much television they watched, and also asked the children how often they were bullied (this included physical and verbal abuse). The results, published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, revealed a correlation between screen time and victimization—every additional 53 minutes of TV-watching predicted an 11 percent increase in bullying by classmates. They speculated that this was likely because more time spent watching TV led to decreased social skills.
"More time spent watching television leaves less time for family interaction, which remains the primary vehicle for socialization," study leader Linda Pagani said in a statement. "Early television exposure is also linked with developmental deficits associated with brain functions that driver interpersonal problem solving, emotional regulation, socially competent peer play, and positive social contact." It might even lead to an inability to maintain eye contact—which is an important part in developing connections with others.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddler screen time is limited to between one and two hours every day. While family movie night might seem fun, playtime with parents is essential to development, because "having a chance to interact... gives a chance to correct or promote certain social behaviors," says Pagani.
Need some ideas for family entertainment? Try these fun, screen-free activities that will make your kid forget the TV even exists. Plus, establish screen rules that everyone will agree on.