PC, TV time linked to teen detachment, study finds

Computers and televisions play a significant role in the lives of teens, though a new analysis links them to low attachment.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

In a world where teens are more likely than ever to be staring at a display, a new analysis has found that all that screen time may be linked to detachment.

The researchers, who examined a 2004 study of more 3,000 youths aged 14 and 15, found that those who spent more time in front of television or computer screens also had more difficulty engaging in a rewarding relationship with parents. In fact, the possibility of low attachment between the teens and their parents increased by 4 percent for every hour of TV screen time, which could include gaming. That figure jumped to 5 percent for every hour spent on a computer.

The researchers compared these findings with a survey conducted by another group of researchers in 1987 and 1988. In the earlier study--which was obviously done before the Internet went mainstream--the researchers found that for every hour of television a 15-year-old watched, the risk of lower attachment to parents and peers increased by 13 percent and 24 percent, respectively.

The researchers noted that less attachment was noted in both groups, even though they were studied more than 15 years apart.

While I'm not a scientist, I'm not so quick to agree with the researchers that it was all bad news. If detachment risk was at least three times higher in the late 1980s than it was in 2004, isn't that a good thing?

And considering the more recent study was performed six years ago--before the concurrent waves of social networking and texting--there is also the possibility of those figures declining even further if the researchers looked at adolescents today.

A 2009 study of adults from the Pew Research Center found just that. Pew researchers found that Web use did not cause social isolation. In fact, it claims that Web users are "45 percent more likely to visit a cafe, 52 percent more likely to visit a library, 34 percent more likely to visit a fast-food restaurant, 69 percent more likely to visit other restaurants, and 42 percent more likely to visit a public park."

So, perhaps it depends on what you believe. One study contends television and computer use is linked to detachment. Another says Web users are more engaged in the real world. I tend to agree with the latter.

The full study is available in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, a peer-reviewed publication from the American Medical Association.