Guest Opinion: Screen time and student success

Caroline Woods, a graduate student in the University of Iowa College of Public Health, writes on the correlation between screen time and academic success.


Last semester, I did a school project on how excessive screen time can affect students’ grades. Even though I’m most interested in the community-health benefits of being outdoors, I really enjoyed digging into this subject — it was very compelling.

I was reminded of this project when I saw someone in the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center leisure pool standing up over the edge of the pool to text, text some more, and then text even more. Were they going to get any relaxation benefit from the leisure pool?

It seems overall that there is increasing concern about how screen time can be3 associated with anxiety and decreased academic performance in students. A national survey reports the prevalence of anxiety in adults at 18 percent. At the UI, the 2018 Student Health Survey reports that 23 percent of students report having been diagnosed or treated for anxiety in the past year.

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Could this increasing anxiety rate be related to increased screen time? For my project, I found studies linking increased screen time and digital multitasking with both increased anxiety and decreased grades. I found out that schoolwork was also poorer in the classmates who were not digital multitasking. Yikes. Overall, it’s saying that our grades can be influenced by our classmates’ digital distractions.

This was even supported by a study on screen time in children. Researchers found that “children who spent fewer than two hours on screens scored about 4 percent higher on thinking-related tests than did kids who spent more time on their screens.”

Good news, though. When students actively decrease screen time, anxiety rates can decrease and grades can improve. Also, students report less loneliness and depression. This sounds like a win-win. If you can, ask your peers what they think about this all, and, if you’d like to give direct input to *The Daily Iowan*, please send an email to [email protected] We’d love to hear from you on this.

-Caroline Woods

student in Community & Behavioral Health M.P.H.

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