Interactive technology (e.g., Internet, social media, video games, etc.) is an integral part of life for youth. In a recently published research paper in Computers and Human Behavior, Anthony and her colleagues report the impact of amounts of interactive technology use on school engagement and academic performance. Two-wave survey data of 9,449 middle school students (mean age = 13.5 years) were collected in 2013-2014 and 2014-15 from the China Education Panel Survey (CEPS), a national survey in China.
Students reported the time spent on their electronic devices for entertainment on school days and on weekends. Academic performance was assessed with midterm scores (Chinese, English and Mathematics), cognitive competency was measured by 20 test items (verbal, figure, quantitative). Truancy, educational aspirations, concentration in class, and boredom at school were reported by students one year later as proxy for school engagement.
After a comparison with those who did not spend any time on interactive technology for entertainment / non-school related activities, the findings showed:
- Even 1+ hours of usage on school days resulted in performance in academic outcomes and cognitive scores becoming worse.
- During weekends, using 2+ hours daily resulted in significantly lower Chinese exam scores, and using 4+ hours daily resulted in significantly lower Math exam scores one year later.
- There was no significant association between weekend usage and English exam scores.
- The usage of 1+ hours on school days and weekends could lower educational aspirations and increase the likelihood of lacking concentration in class at follow-up.
- Using 1+ hours on school days or 4+ hours on weekends was significantly associated with greater likelihood of feeling bored at school.
- However, children who spent less than 1 hour on interactive technology on weekends experienced less boredom at school.
The authors recommended a preliminary guideline with a moderate threshold for technology entertainment which may minimise potential adverse effects:
- No more than 1 hour daily on school days
- No more than 4 hours daily on weekends
Source: Anthony, W. L., Zhu, Y., & Nower, L. (2021). The relationship of interactive technology use for entertainment and school performance and engagement: Evidence from a longitudinal study in a nationally representative sample of middle school students in China. Computers in Human Behavior, 122, 106846. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2021.106846