Among adolescent girls in Fiji even if they did not have a TV to watch themselves TV watching by their peers increased the incidence of their having eating disorders. This is almost like harmful secondhand cigarette smoke.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School's Department of Global Health and Social Medicine examined the link between media consumption and eating disorders among adolescent girls in Fiji.
What they found was surprising. The study's subjects did not even need to have a television at home to see raised risk levels of eating disorder symptoms.
In fact, by far the biggest factor for eating disorders was how many of a subject's friends and schoolmates had access to TV. By contrast, researchers found that direct forms of exposure, like personal or parental viewing, did not have an independent impact, when factors like urban location, body shape and other influences were taken into account.
It appeared that changing attitudes within a group that had been exposed to television were a more powerful factor than actually watching the programs themselves. In fact, higher peer media exposure were linked to a 60 percent increase in a girl's odds of having a high level of eating disorder symptoms, independently of her own viewing.
So if you really want to protect your kids from the nefarious effects of television you'll need to move somewhere that either has no TV access or where everyone has agreed not to allow TVs in their houses. Perhaps a religious cult?