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Study finds ideal screen hours for kids before development and NAPLAN test results are affected

Christopher Harris, February 1, 2021 7:00PM The Daily Telegraph

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Ryan, 13, and Ethan Arnold, 9, at home, in Sans Souci, NSW. They play video games on weekends and holidays but not school days. Picture: Justin Lloyd media_cameraRyan, 13, and Ethan Arnold, 9, at home, in Sans Souci, NSW. They play video games on weekends and holidays but not school days. Picture: Justin Lloyd


Reading level: red

Too many hours spent playing video games at night is damaging school students’ reading and numeracy NAPLAN test results, a new study has revealed.

Spending more than four hours on a school night gaming or trawling* the internet meant students were 15 per cent less likely to attain a higher reading score and 17 per cent less likely to obtain a high numeracy score, the University of New South Wales study found.

But using devices in moderation* on weekdays for between one and two hours a night improved NAPLAN reading scores, with those children 13 per cent more likely to get higher reading scores than those who spent less than an hour on devices.

The study’s author Raaj Kishore Biswas said time spent reading websites and solving tricky games could be behind the benefits of screen time — however the study showed any benefits were lost when students use their devices for more than four hours a night during the week.

“The results of this study show that parental monitoring and/or self-regulation of timing and intensity of internet use and gaming are essential to prevent negative effects on academic performance,” he said.

Mr Biswas said these impacts were mainly because students would skip school, miss classes, or put less effort into homework because of their addiction. According to the study, girls were at slightly higher risk of internet and gaming addiction than boys.

The research used data from the Telethon Institute’s Young Minds Matter survey of 1700 Australian students aged 11-17 and found girls were slightly more likely to exhibit addictive internet use than boys.

Secondary Principals’ Council president Craig Petersen agreed moderate use of technology was beneficial for students but said unfortunately more students were now gaming excessively.

“It is not uncommon to have children up to two o’clock in the morning gaming and on Instagram but we know the brain needs a certain amount of sleep each night,” he said.

In addition to hampering* academic success, he said students who spend a lot of time gaming had impaired* social skills and could not regulate their emotional impulses.

“Anecdotally* children who engage in excessive use of technology we see presenting aggressive behaviours because they lack the social skills to interact with their peers and teachers,” he said.

Case study photo media_cameraEthan, 9, and Ryan Arnold, 13, at home playing video games. Picture: Justin Lloyd

Sans Souci mum Larissa Arnold said her sons Ryan, 13, and Ethan, 9, played video games on the weekend and in school holidays but not through the week.

“Generally I don’t like them gaming during the school term but once it gets to the weekend they can do whatever they want,” she said.


  • trawling: searching for a long time through something big
  • moderation: avoiding extremes or excesses
  • hampering: hindering or holding back
  • impaired: weakened or damaged
  • anecdotally: according to personal accounts or stories rather than research or data


Aussie kids need less homework, more play

How much screen time is too much?

Time outdoors is good medicine for hi-tech kids

Screen time can be green time

Are you getting enough sleep?

Video games a family affair


  1. What national student test is screen time being measured against?
  2. How many students were included in the study?
  3. How old were the students?
  4. When are Ryan and Ethan allowed to use technology?
  5. In which state do Ryan and Ethan live?


1. Screen Time Good or Bad
Using the research presented in the Kids News article, write a list of the positives and a list of the negatives for kids using an electronic device connected to the internet. You can also add your own point of view to the list.

Suggest some ways some of these negatives could be overturned with some simple adjustments of how the device is used.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Digital Technologies, Critical and creative thinking

2. Extension
Write a set of guidelines for the children in your family on using video games and electronic devices. The guidelines should be what you see fair for the kids and seen as acceptable by the adults.

In writing your guidelines, think about how much screen time is healthy and allows more than enough time to socialise, exercise and play sport and spend quality time with your family and friends.

Share your guidelines with some classmates to compare.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and social, Digital Technologies, Critical and creative thinking

Down-Level It
When you up-level a sentence, you do things to it to improve it: make it more interesting, or more complex.

But sometimes, when we read something it can be too complex and we don’t understand it very well. You ask someone to explain it to you, they do (in a simpler way) and you think, well why didn’t they just say that?

Go through the article and find a sentence or two that is complex, or hard to read.

Ask an adult what it means, or try and look some of the words up in the glossary.

Once you know what it means, see if you can rewrite it in a simpler way- down-level it.

Make sure you don’t change the meaning of the sentence in any way though.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you think too much screen time is bad for your literacy and numeracy skills?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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