June 28, 2004
Television Watching Lowers Melatonin, Hastens Puberty

"But Mom, I have to stay up late watching TV so I can grow up."

Scientists at the University of Florence in Italy found that when youngsters were deprived of their TV sets, computers and video games, their melatonin production increased by an average 30 per cent.

“Girls are reaching puberty much earlier than in the 1950s. One reason is due to their average increase in weight; but another may be due to reduced levels of melatonin,” suggests Roberto Salti, who led the study. “Animal studies have shown that low melatonin levels have an important role in promoting an early onset of puberty.”

Don't be too surprised if boys embarrassed by a lack of pubic hairs and girls wanting to grow breasts start watching more TV.

Turn off the TV to prevent teen pregnancy.

Alessandra Graziottin, director of the Centre for Gynaecology and Medical Sexology in Milan and a former president of the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health, said the results were "very interesting and plausible".

She told the newspaper La Repubblica: "Studies in the US have shown that the greater the exposure to television the greater the number of early sexual experiences, including teen pregnancies."

I've previously argued for the delay of puberty in order to help kids be less distracted by sexual desires and more capable of learning. But the question hanging over this proposal is whether the delay of puberty will also delay brain changes that increase cognitive ability. We literally become smarter in our teen years and in recognition of this fact IQ tests are routinely normalized for age. We need psychometric research that tracks IQ changes as a function of the onset of puberty.

To get a sense of just how much the brain changes during adolesence see my post Adolescence Is Tough On The Brain.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 June 28 02:31 PM  Brain Development

hey said at January 10, 2005 1:23 AM:

Does watching movies or video also count?

Randall Parker said at January 10, 2005 2:10 AM:

Hey there hey,

Yes, watching video would have the same effect since it would expose you to the same general level of light brightness.

Laura said at March 2, 2005 5:58 PM:

Seems to me the content of the TV program, would be causing youngsters to want to be sexually active.

Tal Galili said at January 24, 2010 11:39 AM:

Great links.
I am using that for a lecture I am giving - thank you for sharing! :)


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