"More time spent watching television leaves less time for family interaction, which remains the primary vehicle for socialization," wrote Linda Pagani, the study's author and a professor at the University of Montreal.
She said early television viewing is linked with developmental deficits in brain functions that drive interpersonal relationships and how kids regulate their emotions. TV viewing also leads to poor eye-contact habits, which she says is a cornerstone of friendship and social interaction.
In the study, Pagani looked at 991 girls and 1,006 boys growing up in Canada. Parents reported TV-watching habits. The children themselves reported the victimization in sixth grade -- including having things taken from them or being physically or verbally abused. She found that for every increase of 53 minutes in daily television viewing, self-reported bullying increased by 11 percent.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that daily screen time not extend beyond one to two hours a day for toddlers. That recommendation has been disputed; some interactive educational programming like "Sesame Street" has been shown to teach kids how to count. But Pagani said play time outside of the television gives children the chance to be more creative and gives parents the chance to correct or promote social behaviors.
"There are only 24 hours in a day, and for children, half should be spent meeting basic needs — eating, sleeping, hygiene — and the remainder spent on enriching activities and relationships," she wrote.