October 11th, 2010
11:37 AM ET

TV, computer time hurt emotional well-being even for active kids

Children who spent a lot of time in front of a TV or computer monitor had a higher rate of psychological difficulties than kids who weren't in front of these devices, even if they were physically active too, researchers from the United Kingdom report  in the journal Pediatrics.

Scientists from the University of Bristol's School for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, looked at 1,000 children, ages 10 to 11 years old, and documented the time they spent on recreational activities , including both sedentary time and time spent on moderate to vigorous activities

The youngsters also completed a questionnaire that asked about their strengths and difficulties. The questions were designed to assess their psychological well-being.

The data found children who looked at television or computer screens for more than two hours had higher psychological difficulty scores, regardless of how much time the children participated in physical activity.

However, kids who spent more time on sedentary activities, such as homework, or working on a hobby, but less time in front of a screen, had better psychological scores overall. Those with more physical activity fared better in certain psychological areas, including emotional problems and issues with schoolmates, but they did not do as well in areas related to conduct and behavior, including hyperactivity.

Why this happens, researchers are not sure.

"As these are cross-sectional we can't infer cause and effect – but it's worth pointing out that we didn't find any negative association with homework, reading or total sitting time (measured by the activity monitor)," said Dr. Angie Page, lead author of the study. " So it would suggest that there may be something about screen viewing in particular, whether it's on a computer or TV."

Study investigators concluded that the less time a child spends in front of an electronic screen, the better.

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soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Mark

    Nothing game–changing here

    October 11, 2010 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Constantine

    This is just too –
    dang easy – lets try putting down some real news

    October 11, 2010 at 12:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Worried Mom

    This is why i avoid the tv–– the internet – thats another story

    October 11, 2010 at 12:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • xbox live gamer

      why are you worried

      October 12, 2010 at 20:22 | Report abuse |
  4. AllergicToWheat

    Pfft- I grew up watching cartoons like Tom and Jerry, playing the SNES and all the things that are 'bad' for kids. The only thing bad for these kids are the lazy and pathetic excuse for parents they have. Kids don't need to be outside all day long- and little bit of social isolation (alone time) is good for humans. I'm so sick of hearing this crap

    October 11, 2010 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AllergicToYOU

      Wow, could you be any more short-sighted and stupid?

      October 12, 2010 at 15:11 | Report abuse |
    • Haley-15

      HAHAHA! that was so funny you were like "Allergic to YOU" hahahah nice

      October 12, 2010 at 18:02 | Report abuse |
  5. Bradley Sebastian

    Proving once again why psychology is derided as crap science, these "researchers" never bothered to suspect one more than minor element of their assumption was wrong, could they have been putting the cart before the horse? Of course they didn't! They never bothered to consider that children with existing 'psychological difficulties' (their term) gravitated to 'screen time' activities. Did they present any existing evidence to jump ahead in their assumptions? No. Is there any mention in this article that they varied the childrens' exposure to screen time then presented the questionairre again? No. Thank you again, psychology circles, for wasting our time. Next time, at least attempt to conduct your goings-on with real due diligence.

    October 11, 2010 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GrewUpOnMario

      Even if they did- they probably wouldn't have the mental capacity to decipher the statistics. -_-

      October 11, 2010 at 16:18 | Report abuse |
    • Waste of a Study....again

      If it has not become blatantly apparent in the most recent years I will refresh everyone. Ninety-nine percent of these so-called studies, are nothing more than money sinkholes. They are given a set amount of money to study certain aspects of life but none of them ever improve the quality of life for anyone. They also have tunnel-vision. 'Studies show that people are depressed are not happy'. So on and so on. An utter waste of money. Besides, it is more the content of television than anything else. If they were learning something or being encouraging to treat others with respect, respect their parents, boost their self esteem, it might be worth something. Instead they ingest garbage like Jersey Shore and an endless barrage of DEPRESSING DRAMAS.

      October 12, 2010 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
  6. Joebob

    It's so obvious why prolonged exposure to TV negatively affects people. Television shows are made to deliver the ads that sponsor them. The aim of an advertisement is to try and create a need for the product they are intending to sell. In order to create a need where there may or may not be one, the ad creators will try to make the viewer feel that in some way they are inadequate, or their lives are unfullfilled and that the only way to rectify this lacking is by purchasing whatever product the ad is trying to sell. If someone is exposed to hours of messages that are telling you you're fat, boring, bald, etc., it'll make anyone upset.

    October 11, 2010 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      Televison teaches children that in order to be happy they need to purchase products.. Basically it tells kids we are consumer machines.. Television fills kids mind with the violence and sadism, materialism, profanity, a warped view of family life, drugs and alcohol, junk food and isolation..

      October 12, 2010 at 09:13 | Report abuse |
  7. Cocoloco

    Laura: You are retarded! Leave your trash somewhere else!

    October 11, 2010 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Haley-15

      you shouldn't call someone retarded or use it as a negative comment towards someone, 'cause some people really are retarded and i'm sure it makes them feel bad to heard it used so negatively

      October 12, 2010 at 18:03 | Report abuse |
    • xbox live gamer

      two questions #1 do you know Laura #2 who knows Laura might be mean or nice /extra question why are you posting a comment that has nothing to do with the article

      October 12, 2010 at 19:38 | Report abuse |
    • xbox live gamer

      question 2 is not a question

      October 12, 2010 at 19:44 | Report abuse |
  8. Eric

    I have to disagree with the research. I believe what needs to be looked at is WHAT the kids are watching on TV, or what sites they are going to online. I carefully monitor what my sons see on tv or online, and have seen a distinct educational benefit. For instance, one of my sons enjoys Dinosaur Train on PBS. I can now hold up any dinosaur toy or picture, and he can name them correctly about 90% of the time. And the biggest behavioral difficulty we have is when we tell him he has to turn off the tv or computer. So I disagree that all TV or computer time is bad – it's what they see that is good or bad.

    October 11, 2010 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ArguablyDifferent

      I agree. People always say that watching TV or going on the computer 'destroy' children' lives but I don't think that's true. Don't adults do the same thing? Why don't they focus on the adults too? We're all humans!

      October 12, 2010 at 16:05 | Report abuse |
  9. Kraznodar

    Interesting to see several people go into tearing rants about the "conclusions" of the researchers being wrong when the researchers state clearly that they can draw no conclusions. Perhaps this is a case of readers having mental issues and projecting these issues onto others. There has been conclusive research showing that passive activities such as watching TV decreases the intelligence of small children. This includes "educational" TV. The "Baby Einstein" videos have been recalled because they cause decreased intelligence.

    As for Eric – You spend time interacting with your little guy which is proven to be the best thing for promoting intelligence in children. It isn't educational TV that is helping him learn dinosaur names, it is you! As a child I watched tons of TV but while I did so my mom or sisters were right there discussing what we were watching. I talk with my kids while we watch TV all the time. One is highly gifted and the other is above average. It comes from human interaction.

    October 11, 2010 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Worldwalker

    So kids with issues stare at TVs a lot. Who knew?

    October 11, 2010 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Person

    What? I've been making my child sit in front of the TV for five hours a day thinking it was a good thing. Guess I'll cancel my cable and buy him a Gameboy. That'll fix it.

    October 11, 2010 at 17:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steven Q Urkel

      Hey dummy, why not try reading to your child, or taking them on a nature walk, or actual teaching them morals. No, we can't have that. Its too much work.

      October 12, 2010 at 14:42 | Report abuse |
  12. John L

    Could it be the content on the screen? If a kid is doing nothing but 100% learning opposed to 100% entertainment, what is the result then?

    October 11, 2010 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Jon

    I spend a lot of time in front of my computer. The first computer I ever used was a word processor when I was 15 years old. Before that I had used computers, like macs and apples, at school. I had also played the atari and watched TV.

    I believe this study. I think we all need human contact both for emotional reasons and to build interpersonal social skills. I love to play games and browse information sites and so on, but I think we all forget that we have a body and mind that needs to be exercised more fully and if you don't do that it will hurt you. People like me that use the computer a lot forget this.

    October 11, 2010 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Jon

    Also at least up until I was 15 or so, I spent a LOT of time outside. I was very active. But after that I spent a lot of time at the computer.

    October 11, 2010 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Jon

    I think for me i gravitated towards computers because I had a lot of problems in school – it was hard for me to make friends. I think it was natural for me to do that because of difficulties i already had. Maybe I don't even apply to this. I note that in the last paragraph they said it was cross-sectional and therefore it's a less reliable conclusion. In any case, at least I submitted a bit of my history here. I think I generally feel better out and about than I do sitting at a computer. That's worth mentioning. There's just something about sitting at a computer that.... dulls the mind and makes you slump over like a troll.

    October 11, 2010 at 19:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Jon

    I think at-risk kids in particular are hte ones that should be looked for. Specifically, kids that might be intimidated in a social setting. I alreayd stated here that as a growing child and young man I had a lot of problems with people and computers were a natural place for me to relax and feel in control (the opposite of social settings). Kids like this might spend inordinate time in front of a computer to escape the fears they have in a social environment. If we can identify this then we can assist them in reducing those fears and also in reducing their screen time and improving their overall health.

    October 11, 2010 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Diane Lily

    Perhaps its not the length of time as much as the content on TV or computers that kids watch. If kids (and adults) are watching
    violence, sex and other negative content, it will definitely affect their behavior.

    October 11, 2010 at 20:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Seashells

      Exactly Dianne! That is the most obvious reason for psychological issues. A person who is constantly bombarded with negative imagery WILL get affected. You become desensitized. This not just children but adults as well. Garbage in garbage out. It is not rocket science. TRAIN YOUR CHILDREN!

      October 12, 2010 at 14:33 | Report abuse |
    • xbox live gamer


      October 12, 2010 at 20:11 | Report abuse |
  18. Hi

    Well I spend a lot of time on the computer/tv i also play video games. But guess what? I;m academically ahead of everyone at my private school. Everyone has emotional problems growing up minor or major. Nowadays you can get lots of info from electronic screens.

    October 11, 2010 at 23:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bye

      So, whats your point? Are you the be-all and end-all of everything? FACT: Children AND adults who have a steady diet of grease and sugar will have an unhealthy body. The same is true of the mind.

      October 12, 2010 at 14:39 | Report abuse |
  19. Fuyuko

    simple. put an exercise bike in front of the tv. kid can watch as long as kid bikes.

    October 11, 2010 at 23:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. JG

    This makes perfect sense to me. Electronics of any kind are not a substitute for time spent with a parent, friends, playing sports or simply walking about observing nature. A little physical work is great too. Sorry, taking the garbage out doesn't qualify in my book.

    October 12, 2010 at 06:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. JG

    I suppose like anything else...it's all about finding the correct balance. The internet and other sources of information are certainly valuable, however not at the expense of sufficient physical exercise, social interaction with friends, etc. Make sense?

    October 12, 2010 at 06:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Dr Bill Toth

    I'm sorry I am missing the connection between screen time and physically active......I thought it was one or the other.
    Maybe they meant to say those kids who spent a lot of time in front of a screen and had some physical activity in addition...
    but if they did that their conclusions might not apply?
    Live with Intention, DrBillToth.com/blog

    October 12, 2010 at 06:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Bob

    We'll lets look at this logically.. What programs are these kids watching? are they full of violence, profanity and sadism.. Are they watching PG13 and R rated movies?? Maybe the electro-magnetic energy from these new HD TV's are causing these psychological problems.. Don't forget all those commercials telling kids that they are consumers who need to buy products to be normal.. How many watch the depressing News?? More tv kids watch the less family interaction?? So many variables..

    October 12, 2010 at 09:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Overcat

    The researchers were clear that there are no conclusions and no cause and effect implied.

    It could be that kids who are already less socialized choose to watch more TV and sit in front the computer more. The TV and computer are not the cause. It's possible that the internet is allowing kids who are socially awkward use the internet more and it is helping them learn to interact.

    All the study shows is a correlation. You could observe how people dress and conclude that wearing shorts makes the weather hotter, because when people wear shorts it is hotter out.

    October 12, 2010 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Ed

    Since cause and effect cannot be determined as it says in the article we should look only at one side – let's take effect since it is easy to see what the effects are. When kids can't (or won't) get involved in more social activities than sitting in front of xbox or the TV, we should be concerned about their psychological health. Not all are socially withdrawn, in fact, some play video games with friends and laugh and have fun online so there is social interaction despite the fact that they are alone. Other kids are shutting the world out – they're not just enjoying leisure time. Worse still is that these kids watch the world through the eyes of modern television and very violent video games which PARENTS allow them to play and watch. ( No wonder crime, drug use and anti-social behavior is so common today.)

    Parents have a tough job to do – I know because I am one of them and my child has a learning disability which makes it even harder. I can't believe how many parents ditch their responsbilities and let their kids "play" whether inside or out for so long...I know people whose children stay out for hours, and sometimes the whole day, because the parents are busy.

    You get what you put into something, folks, that's the bottom line. Based on my neighborhood – a very nice, wealthy Republican one at that – Money is the priority in life – not raising our children. This is obvious by all the kids left at home while parents vacation abroad or stay late every night at work, grab dinner out and come home at 10 or 11pm just in time to say goodnight to their kids. So much for family values in America...

    October 12, 2010 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. STELLA

    I have 3 kids and i allow them to do thier stuffs with the computer,what should i do?

    October 12, 2010 at 10:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • xbox live gamer

      let them do their stuffs that is what you should do because your comment doesnt say that they are doing something wrong

      October 12, 2010 at 20:15 | Report abuse |
  27. xbox live gamer

    If people want to be social then get online with people on xbox or pc because billions of people like to do this.

    October 12, 2010 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. xbox live gamer

    I used to learn alot of business just by playing Jurassic park on my xbox and is helping me with business decisions

    October 12, 2010 at 17:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ps3 gamer

      DUDE! I feel ya man! Now when I'm in a business meeting and someone doesn't listen to my ideas, instead of yelling at them bare my teeth, start growling, then eat them while their on the toilet.

      October 12, 2010 at 17:41 | Report abuse |
    • xbox live gamer

      gamertag Biliousdog

      October 12, 2010 at 18:59 | Report abuse |
  29. tru

    i watched a lot of tv as a kid and I also played out a lot too. I think tv is great to alleviate mood especially if you come from a high tension family where everybody is finding fault with everyone. Tv helped me relax. Watching tv continously is crazy it indiactes an addiction and..... any addiction is wrong.

    October 13, 2010 at 00:16 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Really appreciate you sharing this post.

    December 1, 2010 at 00:45 | Report abuse | Reply
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