Investigators from institutions in multiple countries conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the association between academic performance and screen use (including television viewing, Internet surfing, video games, and mobile phone usage). The authors used a systematic methodology to identify relevant, published, cross-sectional studies that included children 4–18 years old; measured screen use by time or frequency; and assessed the association between screen use and academic performance as measured by grades, standardized tests, academic failure, or self-report on school performance. Data from studies included in the meta-analysis were used to assess the statistical association with academic performance. Outcomes for the statistical analyses included mathematics and language academic performance and a composite academic performance score. Analyses limited to children (4–11.9 years old) and adolescents (12–18 years old) were also conducted.
Data on 58 studies that included 480,479 participants were selected for the systematic review, and 30 of these studies, with a total of 106,653 participants, were included in the meta-analysis. Included studies were published between 1958 and 2018; 36 (62%) assessed the effects of television viewing, 23 (40%) video game playing, 9 (16%) Internet surfing, 5 (9%) mobile phone use, and 10 (17%) overall screen use. The results of studies included in the systematic review suggested a negative association between television viewing and academic performance, while results of studies on the association between video games and academic performance either suggested a negative association or no association with academic performance. Results of studies on Internet surfing were equivocal. There was no association found between mobile phone use and academic performance in the included studies.
In the meta-analysis, there was no statistical association between overall screen use and academic performance. However, increased television viewing was associated with statistically lower academic performance, including composite, language, and mathematics scores. There was also a statistical association between increased video game playing and lower composite scores. In subgroup analyses, television viewing was inversely and significantly associated with language and mathematics scores in children, and with mathematics and composite scores in adolescents. Increased video game playing was associated with significantly lower composite scores in adolescents.
The authors conclude that the effect of each type of screen use on academic performance should be assessed individually. Television viewing and video game playing appeared to be the activities with the most negative association with academic performance.
Dr Doolittle has disclosed no financial relationship relevant to this commentary. This commentary does not contain a discussion of an unapproved/investigative use of a commercial product/device.
Is all screen time equal? Based on the current investigation, the answer appears to be a qualified “no.” Television viewing and video gaming were associated with lower academic scores, while smartphone use and total screen time were not. The proposed mechanism is the...