A new study out of New Zealand shows a correlation between the amount of time teenagers spend in front of a screen and a lack of attachment to their parents and their friends.
Researchers at the University of Otego in Dunedin asked 3,043 New Zealand teens aged 14 to 15 about how they spent their free time and what their relationships were like. A report on the study was published in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
They found that the likelihood of having low attachment to parents went up 4 percent for every hour spent watching TV, and 5 percent for every hour spent using a computer. Not surprisingly, the kids who spent more time doing homework or reading were more attached to their parents. That sounds about right — teens who like to read and are conscientious about homework tend to be the kind of good, high-achieving kids parents enjoy and find it easier to get along with.
Conversely, the researchers noted, the lower attachment among heavier TV and computer users could be because kids who have a harder time with their peers may be using TV and online activities to form what they called “parasocial” attachments to TV personalities or online friends.
Here’s their conclusion:
“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.”