Watching television and playing video games negatively affects academic performance in children and adolescents but overall screen time does not, according to research results published in JAMA Pediatrics. Television and video games both affected composite scores, while television negatively impacted language and mathematics skills.

In a systematic review and meta-analysis, investigators aimed to determine whether time spent on screen-based activities affect academic performance. Screen-based activities included those associated with computer, internet, mobile phone, television, and video games. The overall impact was also assessed. The primary outcome was academic performance in language, mathematics, and composite scores.

Researchers identified 58 cross-sectional studies. Thirty of these studies also were included in the meta-analysis. A total of 480,479 children aged 4 to 18 years were included in the systematic review and 106,653 were included in the meta-analysis study.

Results suggested that the duration of overall screen media use was not linked to academic performance (effect size [ES], -0.29). Measures for television alone indicated an inverse association with composite scores (ES, -0.19), language (ES, -0.18), and mathematics (ES, -0.25). Playing video games was inversely related to composite scores (ES, -0.15). 

Subgroup analyses also indicated that watching television was only inversely associated with language in children (ES, -0.20), while playing video games was only inversely related to composite scores in adolescents (ES, -0.16).

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“These associations seem to be complex and may be moderated and/or mediated by potential factors, such as purpose, content, and context of screen media use,” the authors wrote.  “Given that both academic performance and sedentary behaviors can be factors in future health, education, and public health, professionals should consider supervision and reduction as strategies for television viewing and video game playing to improve both the health status and academic performance of children and adolescents exposed to these activities.”

Reference

Adelantado-Renau M, Moliner-Urdiales D, Cavero-Redondo I, Beltran-Valls MR, Martínez-Vizcaíno V, Álvarez-Bueno C. Association between screen media use and academic performance among children and adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analysis [published online September 23, 2019]. JAMA Pediatr. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.3176