Detached teens use Internet and TV more—or vice versa?

Parents of Internet- or TV-addicted teens finally have confirmation of something they have long suspected: the more screen exposure teenagers get, the more detached they are from those around them. Those are the findings of a paper set to be published in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, which examined the relationship between adolescent screen time and social involvement with parents and peers. Though the paper doesn't quite say that Internet and TV are the cause of the detachment, it's clear that the two are related.

The paper, called "Adolescent Screen Time and Attachment to Parents and Peers," surveyed behaviors of 3,043 New Zealand students in 2004. Among the findings were a 4 or 5 percent increase in detachment to parents for every hour spent watching TV or surfing the Web, respectively. It's not all about the parents, either—more time spent gaming was associated with low attachment to peers as well. More time spent reading offline and doing homework was associated with higher attachment to parents.

What's curious about the findings is that, when compared to a similar study from the 1980s, these percentages are actually going down. In 1988, there was a 13 percent increase detachment to parents for every hour of screen time, as well as a 24 percent increase in detachment to peers.

The researchers do note in the paper, however, that the numbers from 2004 include numerous Internet-related offerings (that weren't available in 1988) that have helped offset the numbers. For example, there was another previous study that found a positive association between educational Internet use and family relationships. The paper acknowledges that further research is necessary when it comes to specific content and its effect on social behaviors, especially given the rapid development of screen-based technologies.

There have been numerous studies in recent years on whether computer use isolates people from each other, with a recent study out of China going so far as to say that Internet-addicted adolescents are more likely to engage in self-injury. Given these previous findings, it's easy to say that being a couch- or desk-chair-potato is the cause of this detachment, but that's not necessarily the case.

"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," say the paper's authors.

Source: ars technica

Tags: Internet

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