Screen Media Use May Affect Adolescent Academic Performance

The findings of a study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggest that certain screen media activities, such as excessive television viewing and video game playing, may negatively affect children and adolescents’ academic performance.

To conduct study, researchers canvassed the databases MEDLINE, Scopus, Web of Science, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews from database inception through September 2018. They identified a total of 5,599 studies, published between 1958 and 2018 from 23 countries. All data extraction and synthesis data were processed according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). They also used random-effects models were used to appraise the pooled effect size (ES).

The key outcome of this study was performance areas, specified as composite scores, language, and mathematics. Screen media measurements were comprised of time or frequency of computer, internet, mobile phone, television, video game, and overall screen media use. Overall, 58 cross-sectional were included in the systematic review, of which 30 (52%) were included in the meta-analysis. The systematic review studies involved 480,479 participants between the ages of 4 to 18 years, ranging from 30 to 192,000 people per study, and the meta-analysis studies involved 106,653 total participants, ranging from 70 to 42,041 people per study.

Supervision is Needed

Following data analysis, the results of the study showed that the amount of time spent on overall screen media use was not associated with academic performance (ES = −0.29; 95% CI, −0.65 to 0.08). Individually, television viewing was inversely associated with composite academic performance scores (ES = −0.19; 95% CI, −0.29 to −0.09), language (ES = −0.18; 95% CI, −0.36 to −0.01), and mathematics (ES = −0.25; 95% CI, −0.33 to −0.16).  However, video game playing was inversely associated with composite scores (ES = −0.15; 95% CI, −0.22 to −0.08). Moreover, a subgroup analysis observed that television viewing was inversely associated with language only in children (ES = −0.20; 95% CI, −0.26 to −0.15), whereas both television viewing (ES = −0.19; 95% CI, −0.30 to −0.07) and video game playing (ES = −0.16; 95% CI, −0.24 to −0.09) were inversely associated with composite scores only in adolescents.

“Findings from this study suggest that each screen-based activity should be analyzed individually for its association with academic performance, particularly television viewing and video game playing, which appeared to be the activities most negatively associated with academic outcomes,” the study authors wrote in their conclusion.

“Education and public health professionals should consider supervision and reduction to improve the academic performance of children and adolescents exposed to these activities.”