Teen physical activity and screen time influenced by friends

December 14, 2012 by Stephanie Stephens, Health Behavior News Service
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."

Explore further: Scientists find link between number of friends and physical activity in children

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).

Related Stories

Scientists find link between number of friends and physical activity in children

May 7, 2012
Children with more friends are more physically active than those with less, scientists from the University of Bristol have discovered. Research funded by World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the National Prevention Research ...

Recommended for you

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.