Children may learn how to gossip from TV

New research published in the Journal of Communication suggests that children may learn about gossiping and friend manipulation by watching television shows. The study found that children watch a significant amount of programmes that show social bullying or social aggression.

Investigators from Indiana University and the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, discovered 92 per cent of the top series' viewed by little ones aged two to 11 contained a form of these behaviours.

In addition, it was found that attractive characters who carried out these undesirable actions did not tend to get punished for them, while scenes showing such behaviours were more likely to be presented in a humorous manner than those depicting physical aggression.

Nicole Martins of Indiana University noted: "Parents should be more aware of portrayals that may not be explicitly violent in a physical sense but are nonetheless antisocial in nature."

Ms Martins added mums and dads should not assume programmes are suitable for their little ones just because they contain no physical violence.

Professor Rachel Callam from the University of Manchester, a Chartered Psychologist, comments:

"We know from social learning theory and models of social interaction learning that children are influenced by their context and experiences. Parent monitoring and mediation of the messages that they see on TV can help to counteract negative impact, and help to broaden children’s perspectives."