Screen Time May Take a Toll on Kids' Relationships

More hours spent in front of TV, computer linked to less bonding with peers, parents, researchers say

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TUESDAY, March 2, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Too much time in front of computers or televisions increases the likelihood that teens will have poor relationships with their parents and peers, a new study suggests.

The researchers looked at 3,043 New Zealand teens, aged 14 to 15, who provided details about how they spent their free time and how close they were with other people.

The more time the teens spent watching TV or using a computer, the more likely they were to report having difficulty forming a relationship with or an emotional bond to their parents. The likelihood of having what the researchers called "low attachment" to parents increased 4 percent for every hour spent watching TV and 5 percent for every hour spent using a computer.

Teens who spent more time doing homework or reading had a higher level of attachment to their parents, the study authors noted in their report published in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

The researchers at the University of Otago in Dunedin also analyzed interview responses collected from 976 kids, aged 15, in 1987 and 1988. For every additional hour of TV that they watched, the teens had a 13 percent increased risk of low attachment to their parents and a 24 percent increased risk of low attachment to peers.

There are a number of possible reasons why too much screen time may affect teens' relationships with family and peers, the study authors noted. For example, teens who have TVs in their bedroom spend more time watching TV and may share fewer meals with their family.

"However, it is also possible that adolescents with poor attachment relationships with immediate friends and family use screen-based activities to facilitate new attachment figures such as online friendships or parasocial relationships with television characters or personalities," wrote Rosalina Richards and colleagues.

"Given the importance of attachment to parents and peers in adolescent health and development, concern about high levels of screen time among adolescents is warranted," the researchers concluded. "With the rapid advance of screen-based options for entertainment, communication and education, ongoing research is needed to monitor the effect that these technologies have on social development and psychological and physical well-being among adolescents."

More information

The Nemours Foundation offers tips for positive parenting.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, March 1, 2010

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