Objective: We identified associations between time spent watching television and time spent playing video or computer games or using computers and involvement in interpersonal violence, alcohol and drug use in a nationally representative sample of United States high school students.
Methods: We analyzed data from the 2007 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Exposure variables were time spent watching television and time spent playing computer or video games or using computers (hereafter denoted as "computer/video game use") on an average school day; outcome variables included multiple measures assessing involvement in violence and alcohol or drug use. Chi-square tests were used to identify statistically significant associations between each exposure variable and each of the outcome variables. We used logistic regression to obtain crude odds ratios for outcome variables with a significant chi-square p-value and to obtain adjusted odds ratios controlling for sex, race, and grade in school.
Results: Overall, 35.4% (95% CI=33.1%-37.7%) of students reported frequent television (TV) use and 24.9% (95% CI=22.9%-27.0%) reported frequent computer/video game use. A number of risk behaviors, including involvement in physical fights and initiation of alcohol use before age 13, were significantly associated with frequent TV use or frequent computer/video game use, even after controlling for sex, race/ethnicity and grade.
Conclusion: Findings highlight the need for additional research to better understand the mechanisms by which electronic media exposure and health-risk behaviors are associated and for the development of strategies that seek to understand how the content and context (e.g., watching with peers, having computer in common area) of media use influence risk behaviors among youth.