Watching television and playing video games associated with poorer academic performance

Children and adolescents who spend more time watching television or playing video games tend to have worse academic performance, according to new research published in JAMA Pediatrics.

“The health consequences of excessive screen media use in children and adolescents are increasingly being recognized. However, the association between screen media use and academic performance remained to be elucidated, so I decided to conduct the systematic review and meta-analysis to clarify this topic,” said study author Mireia Adelantado-Renau of the LIFE Research Group at Jaume I University in Spain.

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis that combined the results of 30 cross-sectional studies regarding the association between screen-based activities and academic performance in children and adolescents. The studies included 106,000 participants in total.

The screen-based activities included computer use, internet surfing, mobile phone use, television viewing, and video game playing.

Screen time overall wasn’t associated with the academic performance of children and adolescents. However, more time spent watching television and playing video games was associated with poorer academic performance. This was particularly true among adolescents.

“Parents, education and public health professionals should work together to promote the supervision and reduction of screen media usage, particularly on television viewing and video games playing, which are the most negatively associated screen-based activities with academic performance in children and adolescents,” Adelantado-Renau told PsyPost.

“It seems that the context, content and purpose of screen media usage could play a key role in the association between screen media usage and academic performance. Thus, we should also consider these variables when supervising and reducing children’s and adolescents’ screen media usage. In addition, further research should include these variables in the analyses.”

But why are television and video games associated with poorer academic performance? Past research provides some clues.

“Previous research has suggested that television viewing replaces other activities such as physical activity, verbal interaction, studying, or sleeping (ie, the time-displacement hypothesis) and reduces mental effort (ie, the passivity hypothesis), which might affect school performance,” the researchers wrote in their study.

Additionally, “studies have shown that playing video games is inversely associated with emotional and social health, triggering psychological and behavioral problems that may have implications for overall academic outcomes.”

The study, “Association Between Screen Media Use and Academic Performance Among Children and Adolescents“, was authored by Mireia Adelantado-Renau, Diego Moliner-Urdiales, Iván Cavero-Redondo, Maria Reyes Beltran-Valls, Vicente Martínez-Vizcaíno, and Celia Álvarez-Bueno.