High Computer Use Dropping Physical Activity Among Teens

High Computer Use Dropping Physical Activity Among Teens

Kids and teens spent an average 2 hours 17 minutes hanging out with their parents and 1 hour 25 minutes participating in physical activity. Overall, the time that kids spend exposed to media increased more than an hour in the last 5 years - from 7 hours and 29 minutes daily to 8 hours and 33 minutes daily.


The results also indicated a significant trend among kids and teens - a practice the researchers referred to as "media multitasking," or using more than one form of media at a time. A quarter to a third of kids and teens say they use another type of media most of the time while watching TV, listening to music, or using the computer.

In addition, researchers found that many kids and teens may lack parental supervision when it comes to media exposure - two thirds of the kids and teens in the study had a TV, and half had a video game player in their rooms. And kids and teens with TVs in their rooms logged an average 1.5 hours more TV time than kids who didn't have an in-room TV set.

The Internet can be a wonderful resource for kids. They can use it to research school reports, communicate with teachers and other kids, and play interactive games. Any child who is old enough to punch in a few letters on the keyboard can literally access the world.

The number of hours adolescents spend in front of a computer climbed sharply from 1999 to 2004, a new study shows.

The average high school boy spent 15.2 hours a week using a computer in 2004, up from 10.4 hours weekly in 1999, while computer use among teen girls climbed from 8.8 to 11.1 hours a week, Dr. Melissa C. Nelson of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and colleagues found.

Nelson and her team also found that time spent by adolescent girls in modest to vigorous physical activity dropped steadily as they got older, although boys' activity levels remained fairly constant.

While there is a popular perception that people are becoming increasingly sedentary, the researchers note, there is little hard data to back this up. To better understand how adolescents' activity levels change as they grow up -- as well as to determine if the average teen's habits are changing over time -- they looked at data from a five-year study involving 2,516 young people.

The study included a younger group, averaging 12.8 years of age, and an older group averaging 15.8 years; the allowed "for the observation of longitudinal changes from early to mid adolescence and mid to late adolescence."

Girls in both groups spent less time in moderate to vigorous physical activity as they got older, the researchers found. The younger set of girls were active for 5.9 hours a week, but their activity dropped to 4.9 hours weekly when they reached high school age. Among the older group of girls, average time spent being moderately to vigorously physically active fell from 5.1 hours to 3.5 hours a week. Among boys, however, time spent being active only fell among the older teens, from 6.5 to 5.1 hours per week.

Computer activity showed the sharpest increase among boys; from 11.4 hours to 15.2 hours weekly for the younger teens, and from 10.4 to 14.2 hours a week among the older boys. For girls, the only increase in computer use was seen among the older group, from 8.8 to 12.5 hours a week.

"Although technologic advances long have been credited for declines in occupation-related physical activity, these are among the first data-driven findings to suggest that such changes have an important impact on leisure time activity, particularly among youth," the researchers write.

They conclude: "Developing effective health promotion strategies that address a wide array of changing behavioral patterns will be important in promoting long-term health and active lifestyles among adolescents and young adults."

But there is some hope.A recent study over internet use among Ugandan adolescents shown that maternal education increased the odds of using the Internet. Almost two in five participants, 189 (38 percent), reported having used the Internet to search for health information. Over one-third, 173 (35 percent), had used the Internet or computer to search for HIV/AIDS information, and 102 (20 percent) had searched for sexual health information.

Participant use of the Internet or computer to search for HIV/AIDS information was significantly related to weekly Internet e-mailing; visiting chat rooms; and playing online games. In contrast, access to Internet through the school was inversely related to searching for HIV/AIDS information. If Internet access were free, 330 participants (66 percent) reported that they would search for HIV/AIDS prevention information.

"Both the desire to use, and the actual use of, the Internet to seek sexual health and HIV/AIDS information is high among secondary school students in Mbarara," researchers concluded. "The Internet may be a promising strategy to deliver low-cost HIV/AIDS risk reduction interventions in resource-limited settings with expanding Internet access."

That's why it's important to be aware of what your children see and hear on the Internet, who they meet, and what they share about themselves online.

Just like any safety issue, it's a good idea to talk with your kids about your concerns, take advantage of resources to protect them from potential dangers, and keep a close eye on their activities.

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