Nav: Home

Rules about technology use can undermine academic achievement

June 05, 2018

Parents who restrict their children's use of new media technologies may be acting counterproductively in the long run, particularly if they invoke afterschool homework time as the reason. Their children's scholastic achievements at college lag behind the academic performance of same-age peers, a University of Zurich study shows.

Modern technologies such as computers, smartphones, TVs and gaming consoles are alleged to exert a variety of impacts, both positive and negative. There are concerns, for instance, that their constant availability may harm communication skills and cognitive performance, particularly in teenagers. Against this backdrop, parents are frequently advised to set restrictions and clear rules on how long children are allowed to use certain technologies.

College students look back

A study conducted by University of Zurich communication scientist Eszter Hargittai and her research collaborator Drew Cingel has examined the impact that technology rules, and the reasons that parents give for those rules, have on later-life academic achievement. They surveyed more than 1,100 first-year students at a US university well-known for the broad socio-demographic diversity of its student body. The study surveyed students' recollections and retrospective perceptions of the rules they faced in childhood and collected data on their socio-demographic traits and academic grades.

Well-intended reasons with adverse consequences

Hargittai and Cingel have shown that students whose parents had set clear rules on technology use during childhood and cited reasons for doing so do not outperform their fellow students in college. On the contrary, when parents justified their rule-setting with the specific reasoning that technology use cuts into homework time, their children actually performed worse in college. That's an interesting finding, says Prof. Hargittai: "Parents normally set these rules to promote their children's scholastic development and to make sure that they invest enough time in schoolwork. But that evidently can also backfire: The well-intended rule can have unintended adverse consequences." One might argue that it's mainly the parents of children experiencing difficulty in school who tend to set rules to encourage homework diligence. Yet scholastic aptitude during high school was also factored into the statistical analysis. The effect of technology use rules on later-life school grades turned out negative regardless of scholastic aptitude.

Health as a promising argument

The picture looks different when parents cited health reasons such as lack of exercise, eye overstrain or poor sitting posture in front of the computer as grounds for restricting technology use. Those parents' children later exhibited comparatively better academic performances in college. Prof. Hargittai hypothesizes that parents who worry about their children's health don't just regulate their technology use, but also concurrently encourage engagement in alternative activities that are beneficial to children in the long run.

Safety risk for girls, waste of time for boys

The researchers were also able to show that socio-demographic factors such as gender, ethnicity and parents' level of education play a role as well when it comes to formulating specific reasons for restricting use of new media technologies. Parents, for instance, tended to justify restrictions to girls on the grounds of safety or data privacy concerns, whereas they tended to cite health grounds or the "wasting time" argument as the reason for restricting boys' technology use. "We were able to show that the socio-demographic and family context influences how rules get justified by parents and that the reasons stated for imposing those rules can in turn exert an impact on later-life academic success," Prof. Hargittai says in summarizing the study's findings. That's why it's important for parents to proactively discuss the use of modern technologies with their children and to take the particularities of different applications into account, she explains. "Certain games, for example, can help to develop strategic thinking and analytical skills." Prof. Hargittai says that it also makes sense for parents and their children to use technology together: "That's a really practical way for parents to explain the benefits and drawbacks to children in a straightforward manner."
-end-
Literature:

Drew P. Cingel and Eszter Hargittai. The relationship between childhood rules about technology use and later-life academic achievement among young adults. The Communication Review. May 15, 2018. DOI: 10.1080/10714421.2018.1468182

University of Zurich

Related Academic Performance Articles:

Is overall screen time associated with academic performance in kids, teens?
Screen time overall wasn't associated with the academic performance of children and adolescents in this observational study.
Fighting academic failures
Children from undereducated, low-income families face a greater risk of poor academic performance.
Taking arts classes leads to better academic performance, Mason research shows
A new study from the George Mason University Arts Research Center and published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts found a link between arts elective courses in music, dance, visual art and drama, and better grades in middle school.
Academic performance of urban children with asthma worse than peers without asthma
A new study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology shows urban children with poorly controlled asthma, particularly those who are ethnic minorities, also suffer academically.
Citations show academic and non-academic researchers 'win' when they collaborate
Findings in new PNAS paper indicate that when academics work with business, government, and/or NGO partners they produce more cited, higher impact research.
Women much less likely to ask questions in academic seminars than men
A new study reveals a stark disparity between male and female participation in departmental seminars which helps to explain the 'leaky pipeline' of female representation in academic careers.
Genes are key to academic success, study shows
Parents always worry about whether their children will do well in school, but their kids probably were born with much of what they will need to succeed.
Mediterranean diet may improve academic performance by affecting sleep
A new Acta Paediatrica study indicates that following the Mediterranean diet may improve adolescents' academic performance, and the effect may relate to sleep quality.
Rules about technology use can undermine academic achievement
Parents who restrict their children's use of new media technologies may be acting counterproductively in the long run, particularly if they invoke afterschool homework time as the reason.
Preschool home visiting program improves academic performance
A program of home visits designed to help families enhance school readiness for their preschool children had by the third grade improved academic performance, eased the social-emotional adjustment to school, and reduced problems at home for the children.
More Academic Performance News and Academic Performance Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.