'Social Aggression' Plagues Most Kids' Shows

"Television is quite persuasive," Briggs said. "I think it's helpful [to know], especially for parents who have long been aware of and concerned of implications of physical aggression on television, that social aggression is also quite prevalent."

Dr. Eugene Beresin, director of the child and adolescent psychiatry residency program at Massachusetts General Hospital, emphasized the urgent need for additional research in the area.

"We need more research on the impact of media on kids on all ages -- violent, sexual, and socially aggressive media," Beresin said. "What are the consequences? Which kids are vulnerable?"

Beresin added, "Most kids are not going to become violent or socially inappropriate or aggressive based on media, but some percent will. But we don't know what percent will. And we don't know how young this starts."

Martins and her team made the case that parents need to be aware that perpetrators of social aggression may be potent role models for their children and that it may encourage unwanted behaviors in childhood.

Martins, however, hoped her research would increase awareness of the effects of social aggression not just for parents but also among television producers.

"Maybe this will encourage the industry to be more responsible in their portrayals," she said. "Perhaps they can make these scenes a lot less funny or associate pain or consequences with these remarks, instead of the way it is portrayed now -- because it may encourage children to be cruel to one another."

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