4 Sep 2015

Extra hour of television and video games hurt GCSE grades

New research suggests that children hoping to excel in their GCSEs should turn off screens, with television watching ‘most detrimental’ to grades

Teenagers should turn off the television and put away their games consoles to get better GSCE results, new research has suggested.

Extra hours of screen time – including television, computer games and browsing the internet – have been linked to poorer grades in a new study by academics at the University of Cambridge.

Those spending just an extra hour a day on screens saw a fall in GCSE results equivalent to two grades overall with television watching identified as the “most detrimental” to academic success.

Researchers said that the impact of the screen time on the academic progress of 14-16-year-olds could not be reversed by adding extra studying on top.

They analysed the habits of 845 pupils from schools in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk at the age of 14 years and six months.

The pupils heights and weights were recorded, and they had to wear a physical activity monitor for five days including a weekend.

One hour of television could cost two grades

The scientists measured activity of the Cambridge students using heart rate and movement sensors, between 2005 and 2007.

At the same time the students were questioned on how many hours they spent in front of a computer, the television or playing computer games and how much homework they were doing. They were also asked how many hours they spent reading for pleasure.

GCSE performance was assessed at 16, by adding together all the points students obtained across the different subjects they were examined in.

Every extra hour spent watching TV or online was associated with 9.3 fewer GCSE points overall at age 16. This is the equivalent to the difference between two grades, which could mean that screen time could be responsible for students dropping from a B to a D.

TV ‘most detrimental’

Lead researcher Dr Kirsten Corder, from Cambridge University, said: “Television, computer games and internet use were all harmful to academic performance, but TV viewing was the most detrimental.

“I do think there is a role for schools to educated children in the detrimental effects of screen viewing. Zero hours would lead to better academic performance.”

Dr Esther van Slujis, another member of the Cambridge team, said: “If you don’t watch television you will achieve GCSEs results to the best potential

“This shows that reducing screen time may reduce GCSEs results that should be of interest to the government in order to improve grades at GCSEs.

“We believe that programmes aimed at reducing screen time could have important benefits for teenager’s exam grades, as well as their health.”