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Thursday, March 13 2008
Press release

Montreal study finds screen time increases for teens from poorer neighborhoods.

Five-year study: Teens average 30 hours TV and computer use per week

Montreal, March 12, 2008 - Teens from poorer neighborhoods are more susceptible to park themselves before television and computer screens for longer periods of time, according to a study by Université de Montréal researchers presented at the American Heart Association's 48th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention in Colorado Springs today.

Tracie A. Barnett, the study's lead author and an assistant professor at the Université de Montréal's Department of Social and Preventive Medicine and a researcher at Sainte-Justine Hospital, spent five years measuring the viewing habits of teenaged girls and boys. Dr. Barnett and her team found that the overall average for teens equals 30 hours of screen time per week - approximately 20 hours per week of television and 10 hours per week of computer use.

The research team also examined the influence of neighborhoods or social factors on patterns of screen time. "Boys whose parents had lower educations were much more likely report more than 20 hours of weekly screen time," said Dr. Barnett.

Barnett and her team analyzed 1,293 seventh grade students from 10 high schools in Montreal. Participants completed in-class questionnaires four times a year for five years and reported their usual hours of watching television, videos, surfing the Internet or using computers. The researchers also defined neighborhoods by census district, looking at average education and income levels within districts. Overall, their study showed:
" Television viewing generally decreased though high school and computer use increased;
" The majority of teens - 60 percent - spent an average of 20 hours in front of television and computer screens each week;
" One third of teens reported close to 40 hours per week of average screen time;
" Some 7 to 10 percent were exposed to more than 50 hours.

The researchers also found that girls from poorer neighborhoods recorded higher screen-time compared to girls from richer neighborhoods. For boys, living in census districts with low education levels increased screen time two-to-three-fold. "We need to explore why more adolescents view more television and videos through high school if they live in neighborhoods that are socio-economically disadvantaged, since teens with high levels of screen time may be at increased risk of obesity," Barnett said. "Teens living in these neighborhoods should have access to safe and appealing active alternatives to sitting in front of screens."

The researchers also found that television still accounts for the bulk of teen screen-time, since 85 percent of adolescents reported less than 10 hours per week of computer/Internet use.

The National Cancer Institute of Canada funded the study with support from the Canadian Cancer Society. Co-authors included Jennifer O'Loughlin, Ph.D.; Marie Lambert, M.D.; Lise Gauvin, Ph.D.; Yan Kestens, Ph.D.; and Mark Daniel, Ph.D.

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For information

Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins
International press attaché
Université de Montréal
514-343-7593
sylvain-jacques.desjardins@umontreal.ca


Nicole Saint-Pierre
Communications adviser
CHU Sainte-Justine
Mother and Child University Hospital Center
514- 345-4931, ext 2555
Nicole_saint-pierre@ssss.gouv.qc.ca

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