Effects of Reducing Children’s Television and Video Game Use on Aggressive Behavior A Randomized Controlled Trial
Thomas N. Robinson, MD, MPH; Marta L. Wilde, MA; Lisa C. Navracruz, MD; K. Farish Haydel; Ann Varady, MS
Context: The relationship between exposure to aggression in the media and children’s aggressive behavior is well documented. However, few potential solutions have been evaluated. Objective: To assess the effects of reducing television, videotape, and video game use on aggressive behavior and perceptions of a mean and scary world. Design: Randomized, controlled, school-based trial. Setting: Two sociodemographically and scholastically
and scary place. A 60% random sample of children were observed for physical and verbal aggression on the playground. Parents were interviewed by telephone and reported aggressive and delinquent behaviors on the child behavior checklist. The primary outcome measure was peer ratings of aggressive behavior. Results: Compared with controls, children in the intervention group had statistically significant decreases in peer ratings of aggression (adjusted mean difference, −2.4%; 95% confidence interval [CI], −4.6 to −0.2; P=.03) and observed verbal aggression (adjusted mean difference, −0.10 act per minute per child; 95% CI, −0.18 to −0.03; P=.01). Differences in observed physical aggression, parent reports of aggressive behavior, and perceptions of a mean and scary world were not statistically significant but favored the intervention group. Conclusions: An intervention to reduce television, videotape, and video game use decreases aggressive behavior in elementary schoolchildren. These findings support the causal influences of these media on aggression and the potential benefits of reducing children’s media use.
matched public elementary schools in San Jose, Calif.
Participants: Third- and fourth-grade students (mean
age, 8.9 years) and their parents or guardians.
Intervention: Children in one elementary school received an 18-lesson, 6-month classroom curriculum to reduce television, videotape, and video game use. Main Outcome Measures: In September (preinter-
vention) and April (postintervention) of a single school year, children rated their peers’ aggressive behavior and reported their perceptions of the world as a mean
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001;155:17-23 for these effects comes from laboratory experiments,2-4 field experiments in which children’s aggression was monitored after exposure to violent media,5,6 natural experiments that monitored levels of aggression after the initial introduction of television into a community,7 retrospective, cross-sectional and prospective observational studies,8,9 and ecological studies.10,11 Reviews of the literature come to a consensus that exposure to media violence increases children’s aggressive attitudes and behaviors.1,12,13
From the Departments of Pediatrics and Medicine (Dr Robinson), Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention (Drs Robinson and Navacruz and Mss Wilde, Haydel, and Varady), Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, Calif.
IOLENCE IS pervasive in television, movies, and video games. Children’s television programming contains even more violence than prime-time programming; it has been estimated that by the age of 18 years, US children witness 200000 acts of violence on television alone.1 The relationship between media violence and aggressive behavior has been the focus of more than 1000 studies. Exposure to violent media appears to produce 3 effects on children: (1) direct effects, in which children become more aggressive and/or develop more favorable attitudes about using aggression to resolve conflicts; (2) desensitization to violence and the victimization of others; and (3) beliefs that the world around them is mean and scary. Evidence
For editorial comment see page 13
Despite substantial evidence that exposure to violent media is associated with increased...