addition, the ﬁndings from the follow-up portion of the study should be
interpreted with caution given the small sample size and relatively
small number of boys that participated. Third, although the format
was similar to that used in previous studies (e.g., Anderson & Dill,
2000), social desirability could certainly have inﬂuenced the parental
ratings in the present study and thus not only should future studies ex-
amine for and possibly control for these biases, but it may also be best
for future studies to conduct content analyses of the nominated
shows, similar to the approach taken by Linder and Gentile (2009)
with older school-aged children. Future studies are needed that incor-
porate multiple measures of media exposure (e.g., parent report,
media diaries, speciﬁc program content analyses) from multiple infor-
mants (e.g., children, siblings, parents, and peers) across mediums
(e.g., television, video games, movies, and music) in order to determine
the “gold standard” for assessing media exposure. Moreover, future re-
search should speciﬁcally assess the actual TV programs, movies, and
video games that children are exposed to, the relative amounts of
time that they are exposed to each program, and expert raters should
be used to assess the speciﬁc content of each show, movie, and
It is certainly possible that children who consume high levels of
media receive less scaffolding from their parents with respect to how
to navigate social relationships. In fact, we echo the calls of others that
suggest that parents not just co-view, but actively mediate the content
of the media (Warren, 2003). This mediation may allow young children
the assistance that they need to appropriately connect the aggressive
behaviors and friendship conﬂicts with the moral lesson of the program.
We believe that this process requires active mediation and not just
co-viewing (Warren, 2003), as co-viewing without the active engage-
ment and scaffolding of the content may imply tacit approval of the ag-
gressive behaviors. Perhaps relationally aggressive behavior would
decline if parents actively mediated the educational programs with
their young children and helped them to make the connections be-
tween the relationally aggressive behaviors and conﬂict resolution
strategies. The fact that children are not following the plot line and
learning the character development lesson in media programs and
may just be attending to reinforced (i.e., the character gets what they
want) relationally aggressive behaviors that they see displayed suggests
the need for simpler and more explicit lessons for young children's pro-
gramming (Mares & Acosta, 2008). A second implication, however, is
that even shows that are considered to be child-friendly educational
shows can have negative consequences if they model and reinforce re-
lational or indirect aggression (Linder & Gentile, 2009). The current rat-
ings (and the associated V-chip) do not discuss this type of information
(Linder & Gentile), which leaves parents with limited information for
making informed decisions for their children.
In conclusion, the present study documented that exposure to
media that parents label as educational is prospectively associated
with increases in relational aggression over time. These effects were
replicated using three independent measures of relational aggression
(i.e., observations, teacher reports, and parent reports) and after con-
trolling for physical aggression, age, gender, and SES. In keeping with
past work and current predictions the links were limited to relational
aggression and not physical aggression. These ﬁndings suggest that par-
ents, educators, media professionals, policymakers, and researchers
should work collaboratively to reduce these potential harmful effects
for young children.
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Hierarchical multiple regressions: Associations between educational media exposure
and aggressive behavior at Time 3.
Outcome, step, predictors β F, ΔFR
V. Relational aggression T3 (P)
1. Gender .21 F(5, 17) = 2.37, n.s. .41
Age − .29
SES − .34
Relational aggression T1 (P) .22
Physical aggression T1 (P) .16
2. EME T1 (parent report) .49⁎ ΔF(1, 16) = 7.06, p = .017 .18
VI. Physical aggression T3 (P)
1. Gender .08 F(5, 18) = 3.63, p = .019 .50
SES − .15
Relational aggression T1 (P) − .11
Physical aggression T1 (P) .69⁎⁎
2. EME T1 (P) .17 ΔF(1, 17) = 0.80, n.s. .02
Note. P = parent report; T1 = Time 1; T3 = Time 3; EME = educational media expo-
sure. ⁎ pbb .05. ⁎⁎ pbb .01.
43J.M. Ostrov et al. / Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 34 (2013) 38–44