Objective: To examine whether social interactions influence the television viewing choices of adolescents in grades 7 through 12.
Design: Data from a nationally representative cross-sectional survey were used to examine the association between individual-level and school-level television choices. An instrumental variables approach was used to solve the simultaneity problem found in models that examine the association between individual and aggregate choices.
Setting: In-home interviews in the United States collected in 1996.
Participants: A sample of 4532 students in grades 7 through 12 in 132 US public and private schools who participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health).
Main exposure: The reported television viewing choices of an individual's schoolmates.
Main outcome measure: The number of hours of television individuals reported viewing in a week.
Results: The number of hours of television that adolescents report viewing per week was associated with their peers' reported hours of television viewing. Adjusted for other covariates, a 1-hour increase in average school-level television viewing was associated with an increase in almost half an hour of television viewing at the individual level.
Conclusions: Evidence suggests that social interactions within schools influence the hours of television that adolescents report viewing. This finding is important for both future attempts at modeling the determinants of adolescent television viewing and suggestions for future policy interventions. The presence of social interactions implies that interventions that affect the social norms of television viewing within schools could also change individual television viewing. In reducing the number of hours of television watched, these interventions could also positively affect adolescent obesity, emotional problems, and academic achievement.