Is television viewing associated with social isolation? Roles of exposure time, viewing context, and violent content

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006 Apr;160(4):387-92. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.160.4.387.


Objective: To estimate associations between children's peer integration and amount of time they spend (1) watching television, (2) watching violent television, and (3) co-viewing television with friends.

Design: Survey using nationally representative data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics-Child Development Supplement Wave 1.

Setting: Nationwide survey of families with young children performed in 1997.

Participants: Of 3562 children, 1356 had sufficient data for inclusion in analyses (563 children aged 6 to 8 years and 793 children aged 9 to 12 years).

Main exposure: Total time viewing television, with and without friends present, and time viewing violent and nonviolent television content.

Main outcome measure: Amount of time children spent with friends as reported in two 24-hour activity diaries.

Results: Viewing violent programs (but not nonviolent programs) was negatively related to time children spent with friends (aged 6-8 years, unstandardized regression coefficient [beta] = - 0.34, 95% confidence interval [CI], - 0.59 to - 0.08; aged 9-12 years, beta = - 0.41, 95% CI, - 0.65 to - 0.18). More time viewing television with friends was associated with more time engaging in other activities with friends (aged 6-8 years, beta = 0.98, 95% CI, 0.61 to 1.36; aged 9-12 years, beta = 1.03, 95% CI, 0.72 to 1.34).

Conclusions: The more time that children spent viewing violent programs, the less time they spent with their friends. While this study cannot determine the direction of effects for this relationship, a cyclical process between violent media and peer integration best explains the findings. To optimize social development and mental health, children's access to violent media should be limited.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Female
  • Friends
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Social Isolation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Television* / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Violence* / statistics & numerical data