Previous studies have already reported associations of media consumption and/or physical activity with school achievement. However, longitudinal studies investigating independent effects of physical activity and media consumption on school performance are sparse. The present study fills this research gap and, furthermore, assesses relationships of the type of secondary school with media consumption and physical activity.
The consumption of screen-based media (TV/video, game console, PC/internet, and mobile phone) and leisure physical activity (organized and non-organized) of 10 – to 17-year old adolescents participating in the LIFE Child study in Germany were related to their school grades in two major school subjects (Mathematics and German) and in Physical Education. In addition to a cross-sectional analysis at baseline (N = 850), a longitudinal analysis (N = 512) investigated the independent effects of these activities on the school grades achieved 12 months later. All associations were adjusted for age, gender, socio-economic status, year of data assessment, body-mass-index, and school grades at baseline. A further analysis investigated differences in the consumption of screen-based media and physical activity as a function of the type of secondary school (highest vs. lower secondary school).
Adolescents of lower secondary schools reported a significantly higher consumption of TV/video and game consoles than adolescents attending the highest secondary school. Independently of the type of school, a better school performance in Mathematics was predicted by a lower consumption of computers/internet, and a better performance in Physical Education was predicted by a lower consumption of TV/video and a higher frequency of non-organized physical activity. However, the association between non-organized physical activity and subsequent grades in Physical Education was significant in girls only.
The present results suggest that media consumption has a negative effect on school achievement, whereas physical activity has a positive effect, which, however, is restricted to the subject Physical Education. Future studies might explore the relationship between media consumption and school career, for example, the choice or change of the secondary school type, in more detail.
LIFE Child study: ClinicalTrials.gov, clinical trial number NCT02550236