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AUCKLAND (Reuters Life!) - Parents who don't let their children watch too much television or sit at the computer for hours have been vindicated by a study that linked excessive "screen" time with troubles relating to other people.
The study's findings, published in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, should reassure parents who feel guilty that they are depriving their children of entertainment that their peers are also indulging in, lead author Dr. Rose Richards of the University of Otago said.
"Our findings give some reassurance that it is fine to limit TV viewing," she said. "In fact, it may result in stronger relationships between young people, their friends and their parents."
The study was based on the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study and the Youth Lifestyle Study conducted by the university in the 1980s and then in 2004.
Although the studies were some 16 years apart and the nature of screen-based entertainment has changed, the link with family relationships appears to be the same.
"In the 80s, there weren't an awful lot of options around, so people watched television, but now there are a lot of screens that young people can stare at for hours," Richards told Reuters.
"We found that staring at any screen for a long time is detrimental, and advise parents to stick to the recommended time limit of less than two hours of any screen use a day."
The Youth Lifestyle Study involved 3,043 New Zealand adolescents aged 14 to 15. 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.
"In both studies, we found that high television use, or even high computer use, was related to relationship issues," Richards said, adding that strong relationships with parents and friends are important for the healthy development of teens to adulthood.
"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," she said.
Writing by Miral Fahmy, editing by Ron Popeski