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The University of Otago, New Zealand, conducted a study that found watching too much television puts children at risk for gambling disorders and tobacco smoking addiction. The researchers say that their findings could impact children’s screen time recommendations.

According to Helena McAnally, a study co-author, while television can become an addiction, it can also be a sign of future habits for children.

How researchers conducted the study

For the study, the researchers examined a paper on children born from 1972 to 1973. The study looked into the time children spent on television on weekdays. It followed the children ages 5 to 15 and conducted screenings every two years. Researchers asked the parents during each screening to complete questionnaires on their children’s screen time. The study aimed to examine if too much television had a link to drug addiction and gambling problems.

The results showed that children who watched too much TV were at risk for developing these disorders. Researchers also factored in their socioeconomic standing, self-control, and sex. They found that children who watched too much TV were more likely to have additions to alcohol and marijuana in adulthood. Moreover, these adults met the criteria for substance abuse disorders according to the DSM-5.

The researchers pointed out that while many studies had found that watching too much TV could negatively impact health, none of them had looked into the link between overindulging in it and future addictions. 

Researchers recommend campaigns to prevent TV addiction

Another study co-author and preventive and social medicine professor at the University of Otago, Bob Hancox, says that many health agencies have established campaigns to encourage safe sex and alcohol consumption. Hancox believes these programs could also educate people on the dangers of watching too much TV.

The researcher points out that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time for children to two hours daily. Hancox believes that parents could implement this l limit to protect their children.

However, the researchers acknowledge that their study was observational; thus, they can’t prove that television was the cause of addiction. Furthermore, they can’t rule out the possibility of parental influence, genetics, or lack of social support.