Just ONE HOUR of TV or internet use each night can damage a child's High School exam results (?)

As both a psychologist and a former teacher, the effects reported below seemed implausibly large to me so I looked at the source journal article:  "Revising on the run or studying on the sofa: prospective associations between physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and exam results in British adolescents" by Corder et al.  It is a carefully done study but has major lacunae.  The interesting question is WHY some families allow more TV viewing.  Who are those families? I am not drawing a very long bow in assuming that they are in general less intelligent, lower class people.

But that very statement is of course anathema to most social science researchers these days.  The association between educational attainment and IQ may be the best attested finding in the whole of social science.  It has been shown repeatedly for over 100 years -- going back in fact to the 19th century work of Alfred Binet.  Despite that, lip-service must be given in our demented age to the absurd claim that all men are equal. So, as a measure of INequality, IQ is rarely examined in modern-day social and medical research.  To do so would usually expose the researcher to dangerous opprobrium  -- and certainly make his findings less interesting.

And social class is not far behind IQ for its pervasive and well-attested negative effects on health, achievement and much else.

So the authors of this study ignored IQ and made only the most half-hearted attempt to measure socio-economic status.  They assessed your status by the locality you lived in  -- with an average of 1500 people in each locality.  But a major component of socio-economic status is income and, for a number of reasons, people of quite different income levels can be living side-by-side.  Tradesmen can be living beside welfare clients, for instance.  So the authors can be commended for making some attempt at controlling for social class but the level of control achieved was undoubtedly poor.

In short, the results obtained were entirely predictable on the basis of IQ and social class alone.  No certain effect of TV watching was demonstrated

A single hour’s TV or internet use each night will worsen a pupil’s GCSE results, research suggests.

In fact, teenagers should not watch any TV at all if they want to do well, according to a leading academic.

For every daily hour of TV, internet or computer game use, students dropped 9.3 points overall across their GCSE subjects. That is the equivalent of two grades – for example, the difference between a B and a D.

Cambridge University researchers also found that physical activity – while not harming educational attainment – doesn’t improve it either.

Reading and homework unsurprisingly radically improved performance – with an hour spent on homework each night boosting performance by 23.1 points – about four grades. But a cut-off point was found – more than four and a half hours did not make any further improvement.

The researchers, led by Dr Kirsten Corder, studied 845 pupils from different social classes in a variety of urban and rural areas across Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. Dr Corder said: ‘Television, computer games and internet use were all harmful to academic performance, but TV viewing was the most detrimental. We can cautiously infer that increased screen time may lead to poorer academic performance for GCSEs.

‘If teenagers or parents are concerned about GCSE results, one thing might be to look at the amount of TV viewing that they’re doing and maybe just try to be sensible about it.’

Co-author Esther van Sluijs put it more bluntly: ‘Our results suggest if you don’t watch television you will achieve the best GCSE results to your best potential regardless of what other activities you do.’

The research was part of a study looking at factors affecting the mental health, well-being and academic achievement of teenagers as they make the journey to adulthood.

Between 2005 and 2007, the scientists measured activity levels of the participants using heart-rate and movement sensors attached to their bodies. They also asked the pupils how much time they spent in front of TV or computer screens, doing homework, or reading for pleasure. GCSE performance was assessed at 16, by adding together all the points students obtained across different subjects.

According to the TV watchdog Ofcom, the UK’s 11 to 15-year-olds spend three hours a day on average in front of TVs or computer screens.

For participants in the study, the typical amount of screen time per day was four hours.

Dr Corder added: ‘Even if you do sufficient homework, television viewing would still potentially lower your GCSE results.’

The results, which were published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, also showed that levels of physical exercise and sport had no impact on GCSEs. This was important, said the authors, because there was a wide misconception that being good at sport detracted from academic achievement.

Dr van Sluijs said: ‘It is encouraging that our results show that greater physical activity does not negatively affect exam results.

‘As physical activity has many other benefits, efforts to promote physical activity throughout the day should still be a public health priority.’

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