The 15% of the age group who watch television for more than three hours a day are at an increased risk of developing antisocial behaviours, such as fighting, stealing, or disobedience.
The research, published in Archives of Disease in Childhood, examined more than 11,000 children in Britain aged five and seven.
The children’s parents were asked to complete a “strengths and difficulties questionnaire” to describe how well adjusted their children were. They were also asked to report how much time their children spent watching television and playing computer games at the age of five.
The researchers found almost two-thirds of five- year-olds watched television between one and three hours a day, 15% watched more than three hours, and less than 2% watched no television at all.
After taking into account variables including parenting and family dynamics, the researchers found watching television for three or more hours a day led to a small but significant increased risk of antisocial behaviours.