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:

Irregular sleeping patterns linked to poorer academic performance in college students
In a new study at Brigham and Women's Hospital, researchers objectively measured sleep and circadian rhythms, and the association to academic performance in college students, finding that irregular patterns of sleep and wakefulness correlated with lower grade point average, delayed sleep/wake timing, and delayed release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin.
Are we educating educators about academic integrity?
A study by Swansea University researchers has found that student academic integrity is not a core concept taught to academics in Higher Education.
Asian-American students have strong academic support -- but is it too much?
Despite having the strongest academic support from parents, teachers, and friends, second-generation Asian-American adolescents benefit much less from these supports than others, finds a study by NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
Women less likely to be academic grand rounds speakers than men
Data supports the notion that there may be a gender bias in speaker selection at academic grand rounds.
Women in academic cardiology are significantly less likely to be full professors
The first study to evaluate sex differences in academic ranking among academic cardiologists has found that women were significantly less likely than men to be full professors, even when adjusting for factors such as age, years of experience and research productivity that are traditionally associated with academic rank.
Sedentary lifestyle may impair academic performance in boys
A sedentary lifestyle is linked to poorer reading skills in the first three school years in 6-8 year old boys, according to a new study from Finland.
New research: Feeling bad has academic benefits
New research shows that the occasional bout of bad feelings can actually improve students' academic success.
Improving veterans' overall health and academic success
About two-thirds of veterans using Veterans Affairs Department education benefits earn a degree or complete a certificate or training program.
Gestational age may impact academic performance
A new study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology indicates that being born either too early or too late may have a long-term effect on children's academic performance.
Small association of surgical anesthesia before age 4, later academic performance
A study of children born in Sweden suggests a small association between exposure to anesthesia for surgery before the age 4 with slightly lower school grades at age 16 and slightly lower IQ scores at 18, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.

Related Academic Performance Reading:

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

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#513 Dinosaur Tails
This week: dinosaurs! We're discussing dinosaur tails, bipedalism, paleontology public outreach, dinosaur MOOCs, and other neat dinosaur related things with Dr. Scott Persons from the University of Alberta, who is also the author of the book "Dinosaurs of the Alberta Badlands".