Researchers say that just switching off the TV set may not you help keep your kids away from negative influence of the idiot-box, as indirect media exposure. This is in the form of having friends who watch TV, might be even more damaging for a teen.
Harvard Medical School scientists examined the link between media consumption and eating disorders among adolescent girls in Fiji.
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.
Lead author Anne Becker, of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, said this was the first study to attempt to quantify the role of social networks in spreading the negative consequences of media consumption on eating disorders.
"Our findings suggest that social network exposure is not just a minor influence on eating pathology here, but rather, IS the exposure of concern.
"If you are a parent and you are concerned about limiting cultural exposure, it simply isn't going to be enough to switch off the TV. If you are going to think about interventions, it would have to be at a community or peer-based level," she said.
Nicholas Christakis, of the Harvard Medical School, has studied the spread of health problems through social networks.
"It shouldn't be that surprising to us, even though it is intriguing, that the indirect effects of media are greater. Most people aren't paying attention to the media, but they are paying attention to what their friends say about what's in the media.
It's a kind of filtration process that takes place by virtue of our social networks," she said.