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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of April 3 - 9 , 2002


Pull the plug—and mean it

A new study on TV viewing should give parents new reasons to pull the plug on adolescent couch potatoes.

The study followed a random sample of more than 700 adolescents for 17 years. Researchers found that adolescents who watched one to three hours of television daily were nearly four times more likely to commit violent and aggressive acts later in life.

The study was reported in the journal "Science" last week. The lead author of the study was Jeffrey Johnson, assistant clinical professor of psychology in Columbia University’s Psychiatry Department.

Researchers conducted interviews with kids, beginning at age 14, and their families about TV habits, violence and aggression. They followed up with interviews at averages ages of 16, 22 and 30.

In the year 2000, researchers examined state and FBI records to find out if any of the subjects, all of whom had reached the average age of 30, had been arrested or charged with a crime. They also talked to the subjects and their parents.

The researchers found that just 5.7 percent of those who had reported watching less than one hour of TV a day as adolescents had committed aggressive acts against others.

Of those who reported watching more, 22.5 percent of those who watched one to three hours a day, and 28.8 percent of those who watched more than three hours a day had committed such acts.

Researchers used statistical techniques to rule out other potential causes of violence including neglect, poverty and living in a violent neighborhood.

The study didn’t examine what kinds of TV shows were watched, but it’s probably just as well. Anyone who has ever tried to control what teenagers watch when they can surf hundreds of channels is next to impossible. Anyone who has surfed those same channels knows that they are saturated with violent images.

Parents and communities should take the study’s findings seriously. TV should not be allowed to set the standards of acceptable social behavior. The risks are becoming all too clear.

Communities like ours with large numbers of working parents need to provide a wide range of healthy after-school activities for kids. Parents need to plan activities with their teenagers, particularly in the school-free months that will arrive soon.

Finally, parents need to pull the plug—and mean it.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.