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Teens who spend less time glued to screens may relate better to peers

Lecture theatre

Tuesday 2 March 2010 3:58pm

Boy in front of TVA new study at the University of Otago has some good news for parents worried that restricting TV viewing might make it more difficult for their children to relate to their friends.

The newly published study found that young people who watched more TV tended to have poorer relationships with both their friends and parents.

The findings, published in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, come out of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study and the Youth Lifestyle Study. The studies were conducted 16 years apart and show that, although the nature of screen-based entertainment has changed, the association with family relationships appears to be the same.

Dr Richards says that there have been some concerns among parents that their children might feel excluded if they were not watching the same TV programmes as their friends.

“However, our findings give some reassurance that it is fine to limit TV viewing. In fact, it may result in stronger relationships between young people, their friends and their parents,” she says.

The study involved 3,043 New Zealand adolescents aged 14 to 15 in 2004. The teens completed a confidential questionnaire about their free-time habits, as well as an assessment of their attachment to parents and peers.

The researchers also assessed interview responses from 976 members of the Dunedin Study who were 15 years old between 1987 and 1988.

Strong relationships with parents and friends are important for healthy development from teenage years into adulthood, Dr Richards says.

“With the rapid pace of evolution in screen-based technologies, ongoing research is needed to monitor the effect they are having on the social, psychological and physical well-being of young people.”

Dr Richards is based in the Cancer Society Social and Behavioural Research Unit and the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit.

Her co-authors include Professor Rob McGee, Associate Professor Sheila Williams and Associate Professor Bob Hancox of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine and Dr David Welch, now at the University of Auckland.

For more information, contact

Dr Rose Richards
Tel 64 3 479 7209

Associate Professor Bob Hancox
Tel 64 3 479 8512

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