A new study suggests spending time in front of the TV can have negative effects for toddlers' future, specifically when it comes to their social life. The number of hours spent in front of the television at age 2 correlates to a likelihood of being bullied in sixth grade, according to the research.

"It is plausible that early lifestyle habits characterized by less effortful interactive experiences, such as early televiewing, can ultimately result in social skill deficits,” said Linda Pagani, of the University of Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine children's hospital, in a press release. “More time spent watching television leaves less time for family interaction, which remains the primary vehicle for socialization.”

Pagani’s study involved examining the TV viewing habits and bullying history of 991 girls and 1,006 boys. Parents reported the children’s television habits, and the level of victimization in grade six was reported by the kids themselves. Children were asked if they had ever had their belongings taken from them and how often they were physically or verbally abused by peers.

"Every standard deviation unit increase of 53 minutes in daily televiewing at 29 months predicted an 11 percent standard deviation unit increase in bullying by sixth grade classmates," Pagani said. "This figure takes into account other confounding factors that might influence the likelihood that the child would be bullied, such as his behavior and cognitive abilities and the characteristics of his family: their income, functioning, composition, and the level of the mother's education."

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that daily screen time for toddlers not exceed one to two hours. "The AAP recommendations particularly relate to quantity of televiewing time,” Pagani said. “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.”

Past studies have shown that children who spend more time in front of the TV are likely to be exposed to programs containing violence and sex. While experts agree that certain television programs can have educational benefits, the media can also desensitize kids to violence, and even cause them to imitate it. Even after they stop watching, negative effects like sleep disturbances have been exhibited in those children that watch excessive amounts of TV.

Source: Pagani L, et al. Too Much Television? Prospective Associations Between Early Childhood Televiewing and Later Self-Reports of Victimization By Sixth Grade Classmates. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. 2015.