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Heavy Media Use, Whether Old or New, Associated with Poorer Mental Health in U.S. Young People

Results released today from the National Annenberg Survey of Youth (NASY) indicate that although concerns about excessive Internet use may be justified, heavy use of television may be an even larger concern. In one of the most extensive national surveys of media habits over a two-year period, six different types of media use were identified in young people ages 14 to 24. Among these types, a small group of Heavy Internet and TV users was projected to represent about 10% of American youth. This group uses the Internet much more than others but also uses TV at a higher rate. The group tends to report more recent experiences of hopelessness than other young people (51% vs. 39% on average). At the same time, a much larger group of Heavy TV using youth (17%) uses television at a very high rate but only average amounts of the Internet. Nevertheless, this group also reports high levels of hopelessness (49%).

The results of the study conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center are being presented at the meetings of the International Communication Association in Boston this weekend. The study involved over 700 young people interviewed in each of years 2008 and 2009. The six patterns of media use were found across both years of the study, indicating that they are quite characteristic of young people’s media use. The current report focuses on the types found in 2009. However, a more recent survey in 2010 found the same types as in the prior years.

“Old media, such as TV, may be just as problematic as new media,” said Dan Romer who directs the NASY. “Many of the concerns about heavy Internet use may just be the reaction to a newer form of media. To understand the role of media, one has to look at the entire pattern of media use and not just the Internet.”

Read the full press release