7 Sep 2015

Screen time harms teens' grades, study finds

10:17 am on 7 September 2015

British scientists have found teenagers who spend an extra hour a day in front of a screen risk performing two grades worse in exams than their peers who don't.

Stock photo of students using technology

Photo: NZQA

In a study of more than 800 students aged 14 and 15, researchers from Cambridge University also found that physical activity had no effect on academic performance.

The researchers followed the pupils over time to see how different behaviours affected performance, and said it was reasonable to conclude that too much time surfing the internet, watching TV or playing computer games reduced academic achievement.

"We only measured this in Year 10, but this is likely to be a reliable snapshot of participants' usual behaviour, so we can reasonably suggest that screen time may be damaging to a teenager's grades," said Kirsten Corder of Cambridge's Centre for Diet and Activity Research, who co-led the work.

The study, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, found the average amount of screen time per day was four hours.

An extra hour in front of the TV or online at age 14-and-a-half was linked with 9.3 fewer exam points at age 16 - equivalent to two grades, for example from a B to a D. Two extra hours was linked to 18 fewer points.

Unsurprisingly, the results also showed that pupils doing an extra hour of daily homework and reading scored better - getting on average 23.1 more points than their peers.

The scientists said further research was needed to confirm the effect conclusively, but advised parents worried about their children's grades to consider limiting screen time.

In a breakdown analysis of different screen activities, the researchers found that TV came out as the most detrimental in terms of exam performance.

- Reuters