The study, which was conducted at Queen’s University in Canada, has found that young adults who racked up the most hours spent logged onto their computers were 50 per cent more likely to be involved in six ‘multi-risk behaviours’.
The behaviours included having unprotected sex, not wearing a seat belt, cannabis and illegal drug use, smoking and drunkenness.
Study author Valerie Carson commented that the research is based upon the social cognitive theory, which suggests that seeing people engage in risky behaviour is actually a way of learning it.
‘Since adolescents are exposed to considerable screen time – over 4.5 hours on average each day – they’re constantly seeing images of behaviours they can then potentially adopt.’ She said.
Carson believes that one of the main issues is the fact that TV and video games have censorship protocols, whereas the internet does not. This in combination with an increasing number of adolescents accessing the internet means that teenagers are consistently exposed to risky and negative behaviours.
Carson has suggested that parents make use of the programs in place which help to control internet access. Although it will not be possible to block all undesirable websites, these protocols can be useful.
The study has now been published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine and suggests that additional studies be conducted in the future in order to strengthen current internet guidelines for young people.