Lead researcher Valerie Carson, a doctoral candidate at Queen's University, found a strong association between teen computer and Internet use and engagement in multiple-risk behaviors -- including illicit drug use, drunkenness and unprotected sex.
"This research is based on social cognitive theory, which suggests that seeing people engaged in a behavior is a way of learning that behavior," Carson says in a statement. "Since adolescents are exposed to considerable screen time -- over 4.5 hours on average each day -- they're constantly seeing images of behaviors they can then potentially adopt."
The study, published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine, concluded high computer use was associated with approximately 50 percent increased engagement in smoking, drunkenness, non-use of seatbelts, marijuana, illicit drug use and unprotected sex. High television use was also associated with a modestly increased engagement in these risky behaviors.
"TV and video games have more established protocols in terms of censorship, but Internet protocols aren't as established," Carson says. "Parents can make use of programs that control access to the Internet, but adolescents in this age group are quite savvy about technology and the Internet."
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