New Research into the Impact of Digital Media on Homework

How does the amount of time spent on digital media affect a child’s well being and development, including the ability to complete their homework? New research provides additional insight into this question.

digital media and homeworkTHE PROBLEM: In today’s ever-changing world of technology, how does a parent deal with the pressures of time constraints? When all around you, people are no longer communicating with each other without some kind of digital screen in front of them, how do you make a decision about how much digital media is okay for your child? When does it become too much, so that it interferes with the other facets of a child’s healthy emotional and mental development?

THE STUDY: That was the question that pediatricians from Brown University School of Public Health sought an answer to when they analyzed data on media use and homework habits of 64,000 children aged 6-17 from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health. This survey, which uses parental and caregiver reports of their children’s activities, is sponsored by the federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau and completed every few years by a group at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers presented an abstract of the study, “Digital Media Exposure in School-Aged Children Decreases the Frequency of Homework”, at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Convention in October.

Overall findings were specific and abundantly clear: “Children who spent four to six hours on digital media had 49 percent lower odds of always or usually finishing their homework than those with less than 2 hours per day.” Even 2 or 3 hours a day resulted in a significant negative impact on homework completion.

Note: “Digital media” included: TV, computers, tablets and smartphones, and the research separated out time spent on school work projects.

Facts: Percentage of digital media exposure of the study group.

  • 31% were exposed to less than two hours per day.
  • 36% were exposed to two to four hours per day.
  • 17% were exposed to four to six hours per day
  • 17% were exposed six or more hours per day

THE RESULTS: The effects of digital media exposure on homework completion by children, when compared to children with less than two hours of usage per day:

  • Two to four hours of media usage: children had 23% lower odds of completion.
  • Four to six hours of media usage: 49% lower odds of always or usually finishing their homework.
  • Six or more hours of media usage: 63% lower odds of completion.
  • For every additional two hours of any digital media usage, there was significant decrease in the probability of always or usually completing homework.

Other negative side effects of over-exposure to digital media and the ability for children to flourish, surfaced in the lack of

  • Caring about performing well in school
  • Completing tasks started
  • Interest in learning new things
  • Staying calm in the face of challenges

“Parents should consider these combined effects when setting limits on digital media devices.” according to Stephanie Ruest, MD, FAAP, an author of the study.

Note: The statistics remained the same regardless of child’s age, sex or family income level.

MY THOUGHTS: As a Grandmother of five grandchildren between the ages of eleven and fifteen, I have certainly had the opportunity to observe the problem many times over – and from my perspective, the bottom line is clear. Parents need to pay attention to this study.

They need to make the adjustments to their parenting by not following a “Do as I say, not as I do!” mentality. The study quite clearly answers the question: Yes, there will be damage to children from long-time exposure to digital media. The more the exposure, the more the damage there will be. It WILL have a negative effect on their ability to complete their homework and other projects, get a good night’s sleep and to remain calm in the face of a crisis. The parents are the examples. Will they be willing to make the changes in their own and their family’s lives to be able to nurture stable, responsible, well-adjusted children by making the harder, more adversarial choice to limit their child’s usage of digital media?


The abstract was presented by co-author Max Rubinstein, MD., a copy of which can be obtained from the AAP Department of Public Affairs at: Senior author Annie Gjelsvik, PhD, can be contacted at

Click here for a link to an AAP article on this study.

About the Author

I am a former New Yorker, a new resident of Georgia, and I have three daughters, four stepsons, and six grandchildren. I’ve had a career as a musician/entertainer and educator, and have now focused my attention on this cause, which I find to be of utmost value to moms, dads, and other caregivers of children. It feels good to be able to contribute to keeping kids healthy and safe.


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