Parenting

Watching TV as a Teen May Cause Depression in Adulthood

| by Dr Gwenn

As if being a teenager isn't complicated enough, a new study out this month puts the spot light on teen TV viewing and an association with later development of depression.

Published
in this month's Archives of General Psychiatry, the study found a dose
response effect. The more tv viewing the teens in the study had, the
more the likelihood of the development of depression as a young adult.
Approximately 4100 teens were followed over 7 years with boys being
affected more than girls. None of the teens had depression when the
study began and 7% had symptoms of depression when the study concluded.

The
big unanswered question that still remains is why. Factors that will
need to be evaluated further include the impact of show content and
theme, and the social viewing issues of watching shows alone vs. with
others.

So, what does this mean for our teens? In light of past
studies warning us about the harmful effects on kids in general of too
much TV, this study does warrant a moment of pause. While we may not
understand yet the exact aspect of TV that creates a path to later
depression, this study does add further evidence that too much TV is
harmful for our developing kids and reminds us that we need to pay
attention to what our teens are doing with their time.

I like to
say "a busy teen is a happy teen, and a teen out of trouble". If a teen
is watching many hours of TV, that teen needs more to do. Help that
teen find some after school activities and peer activities to focus on.
TV can then be enjoyed as entertainment and for unwinding once in a
while.

Teens are also very impressionable. Perhaps this isn't
the age to just hand over the beeper and let them click away. In fact,
this is the exact age we, as parents, should be plopping on the couch
nearby just to converse if a topic comes to mind during a show. Teens
may not always state "will you watch TV with me?" but they'll be
smiling on the inside.

If you have a teen at home, they are not
young adults yet...you still have time to ward off your teen falling in
that 7% of depressed young adults from too much TV viewing. It may
sound simplistic, but I have a feeling it may boil down to old
fashioned parenting and bonding.

If you are worried that your teen or young adult is depressed, click here to learn more.