NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — No video games on school nights? As both schoolwork and entertainment become more and more synonymous with “screen time,” it can seem impossible at times to keep kids off of their digital devices. However, a study finds limiting how much time teens use the internet for recreation can be good for their grades.
Researchers at Rutgers University say children in middle school who play video games or use social media and the internet for more than an hour on school days have significantly lower grades and test scores than their peers. Study authors add their findings give parents some tangible boundaries for their kids when it comes to digital entertainment. They recommend limiting students to one hour of recreational screen time daily on weekdays and four hours a day on weekends.
“Interactive technology is widely used to promote children’s educational access and achievement,” explains lead author Vivien (Wen Li) Anthony, an assistant professor at the School of Social Work and research associate at the Rutgers Center for Gambling Studies, in a university release.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has been essential to facilitating remote learning. At the same time, there is a growing concern that excessive technology use, particularly for entertainment, may adversely affect children’s educational development by facilitating undesirable study habits and detracting from time spent on learning activities.”
Too much screen time leads to bad habits in class
Working with Professor Lia Nower, also from the Center for Gambling Studies and Renmin University of China, the team examined data from the China Education Panel Survey. The national report provided information on school performance and recreational habits for nearly 10,000 students with an average age of 13.5.
The survey results reveal children using digital technology for entertainment over four hours a day were four times more likely to skip class. Researchers discovered boys are much more likely to entertain themselves using social media, the internet, and video games than girls. In turn, boys also performed worse and displayed less desire to engage in their schoolwork than girls.
“Such findings are critical, particularly in light of the recent movement toward online learning in countries throughout the world,” Anthony says. “In a learning environment that integrates the internet, it is easy for children to move across educational and entertainment platforms during learning without alerting teachers or adults to alternate activities.”
On the other hand, keeping screen time under control seems to provide a boost academically and socially for youngsters. The survey shows children using technology for fun less than one hour a day on weekdays experienced less boredom in class. Researchers say using technology in moderation also helped to boost cognitive development among these students.
The study appears in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.