Prolonged Computer Use by Teens Linked to Risky Behaviors A provocative new study suggests adolescents who use the computer for more than 4.5 hours a day are at risk for multiple risky behaviors.

In the study, researchers discovered a strong connection between computer and Internet use in adolescents and participation in risky behaviors such as illicit drug use, drunkenness and unprotected sex.

“This research is based on social cognitive theory, which suggests that seeing people engaged in a behavior is a way of learning that behavior,” said lead researcher Valerie Carson, a doctoral candidate at Queen’s University in Canada.

“Since adolescents are exposed to considerable screen time — over 4.5 hours on average each day — they’re constantly seeing images of behaviors they can then potentially adopt.”

Researchers discovered high computer use was associated with approximately 50 per cent increase in display of multiple risky behaviors (MRB).

A common cluster of MRB includes smoking, drunkenness, non-use of seatbelts, cannabis and illicit drug use, and unprotected sex.

High television use was also associated with a modestly increased engagement in these MRB.

Researchers believe the findings may be explained by the exposure to significant amounts of advertising that used to be shown on TV that is now being shown on the Internet. In addition, computer usage by adolescents has increased considerably in recent years.

Carson notes that while TV and video games have established protocols in terms of censorship while the Internet has yet to develop any.

“Parents can make use of programs that control access to the Internet, but adolescents in this age group are quite savvy about technology and the Internet,” she said. “It’s possible that these types of controls aren’t effective in blocking all undesirable websites.”

The research was published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine, with Carson suggesting that future studies should examine the specific content adolescents are being exposed to in order to help strengthen current screen time guidelines for youth.

Source: Queen’s University