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Overuse of screen time affects academic performance

The focus of the research is with 8- to 11-year old children and it shows a correlation between heavy television use and lower reading performance. In addition, the research demonstrates a connection between excessive computer use and weak numeracy skills.

These are not the only negative effects that excessive screen time has on the developing person. Earlier research has unearthed connections between use of electronic media with obesity, poor sleep, and other physical health risks in both children and teenagers.

However, there are some strands of research that suggest the application of digital media provides improved access to information, boosts technology skills, and allows people to make social connections. Overall, the extent to which electronic media may affect the lives of children continues to be hotly debated.

The new research into academic attainment (reading and number skills) was drawn from an assessment of 1,239 children aged between 8- to 9-year old located in Melbourne, Australia. Researchers took national achievement test data and used this to assess the children’s academic performance. This was as an initial baseline and then two year later. The results for individual children were correlated with the use of electronic media,as reported by parents.

The scientists discovered that watching two or more hours of television each day was linked with lower reading performance two years later (and as compared with children who watched fewer hours of television). The drop in reading standards equated to some four months of learning.

Furthermore, the data analysis demonstrated how using a computer for over one hour per day was connected to a loss of numeracy (to a similar degree as with reading ability). Interestingly, the analysis showed no links between use of video games and variations with academic performance.

The scholastic study has been published in the journal PLOS One. The research is under the title “Electronic media use and academic performance in late childhood: A longitudinal study.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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