In 1995, Primack and his associates interviewed 4,142 adolescents with no history of depression to determine the number of hours they spent watching television or videos, playing computer games, or listening to the radio.
The average daily exposure was 5.7 hours, including 2.3 hours of television viewing.
Seven years later, 308 (7.4 percent) of the young people had symptoms of depression. Among those who were depressed, symptoms increased at a rate directly related to the number of hours they watched television and used other electronic media at the start of the study. Interestingly, the phenomenon was more prevalent in males than in females.
What exactly is the correlation between electronic media and depression?
There are several theories. As a classroom teacher, I had concerns about what wasn’t happening when kids were watching TV and playing video games.
Social, intellectual and athletic activities that safeguard against depression don’t take place in front of a monitor.
Another issue is that late-night watching disturbs normal sleep cycle s, a phenomenon well-known to hamper emotional and intellectual development.
According to Primack, another “…theory is that you see a lot of depressing events on television and are likely to internalize them. Television emphasizes bad news, and repeated exposure to it might be internalized.”
Commercials and ads are also factors. “You see about 20,000 television advertisements a year, and a large proportion of them dwell on the fact that life is not perfect,” Primack said.
The message is this:
Help your children and teens develop into active, happy young adults by limiting the amount of time spent watching TV, playing video games, and listening to music alone.