BACKGROUND. The relationship between media exposure and school performance has not been studied extensively in adolescents.

OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this work was to test the relative effects of television, movie, and video game screen time and content on adolescent school performance.

METHODS. We conducted a population-based cross-sectional survey of middle school students (grades 5–8) in the Northeastern United States. We looked at weekday television and video game screen time, weekend television and video game screen time, cable movie channel availability, parental R-rated movie restriction, and television content restriction. The main outcome was self-report of school performance (excellent, good, average, or below average). We used ordinal logistic-regression analysis to test the independent effects of each variable, adjusting for demographics, child personality, and parenting style.

RESULTS. There were 4508 students who participated in the study; gender was equally represented, and 95% were white. In multivariate analyses, after adjusting for other covariates, the odds of poorer school performance increased with increasing weekday television screen time and cable movie channel availability and decreased with parental restriction of television content restriction. As compared with children whose parents never allowed them to watch R-rated movies, children who watched R-rated movies once in a while, sometimes, or all of the time had significantly increased cumulative odds of poorer school performance. Weekend screen time and video game use were not associated with school performance.

CONCLUSIONS. We found that both content exposure and screen time had independent detrimental associations with school performance. These findings support parental enforcement of American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for media time (particularly weekdays) and content limits to enhance school success.

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