Teen physical activity and screen time influenced by friends

by Stephanie Stephens
Teen physical activity and screen time influenced by friends

The company a teen keeps can influence how much time they spend either in front of a screen or participating in healthy physical activity, finds a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Researchers analyzed data from 2009-2010 E.A.T. (Eating and Activity among Teens) 2012 survey, conducted in 20 and high schools in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.

Results from the survey found that adolescents become increasingly independent from their parents while relying more upon behavioral cues from their friends.

In addition, the study yielded a few surprises that challenged some gender-related preconceived notions about teen leisure time, said lead study author John R. Sirard, Ph.D., assistant professor of the kinesiology program and Youth-Next Research Center at the University of Virginia.

"We anticipated we'd see a pretty consistent association between male adolescents and their male friends for both —television, computer or video games, but not phone apps—and . We thought the 'jocks' would hang out together or active boys with other active boys and that if a boy was inactive, the same thing would occur."

Overall, boys engage in more moderate to and screen time than girls. Both the physical activity and screen time of boys was found to be more influenced by the behaviors of their female friends than their male friends.

For girls, physical activity was associated with that of both their male and female friends'. However, females' screen time was associated with their male friends' screen time but not with their female friends' screen time.

The results are consistent with earlier research that finds that the social aspects of sports are most appealing to girls, the researchers say.

"We know physical activity has consistent benefits for adolescents and adults," said Sirard. Obesity itself isn't contagious, he said, but the behaviors that affect weight status are contagious—what goes in (i.e. food), and what goes out or is expended (i.e. physical activity).

"The authors add to our current knowledge base by separately examining males and females. They showed similar results to previous literature that found social aspects of physical activity to be particularly important for females," said Karin Allor Pfeiffer, Ph.D. of the department of kinesiology at Michigan State University.

"Also, as the authors noted, longitudinal research is necessary to help establish causality," said Pfeiffer. "In other words, do friends become more like each other in their behaviors or do like-minded friends find each other?"

Sirard and his colleagues recommend real-world oversight to effect healthy changes. "If we're going to allow our kids screen time, it should be supervised or limited," he said. "They can play an active video game instead of a passive one, or go outside and actually play the real game."

More information: Sirard, J.R. et al. Physical Activity and Screen Time in Adolescents and Their Friends, American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 44(1):48 –55 (2012).

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Young dog owners more physically active

Feb 08, 2011

They’re furry, fun loving and could be the key to getting your sedentary teen off the couch, finds a new study on dog ownership and adolescent physical activity.

Today's children do engage in active play

Mar 17, 2011

New research suggests that promoting active play in children's leisure time could increase the physical activity of today's children, but that such strategies might need to be tailored according to gender.

Study shows teens become less active as they grow older

Feb 19, 2007

As they grow older, teenagers are spending more time in front of the computer and television and less time participating in physical activities, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. ...

Recommended for you

Report highlights progress, challenges in health IT

11 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Progress has been made toward widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHRs), although there are still barriers to adoption of advanced use of EHRs, according to a report published ...

Training your brain to prefer healthy foods

11 hours ago

It may be possible to train the brain to prefer healthy low-calorie foods over unhealthy higher-calorie foods, according to new research by scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center ...

Outdoor enthusiasts need a lightning plan

11 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Those partaking in outdoor sports and activities need to be aware of the threat posed by lightning and take appropriate safety measures, experts say.

User comments