RIETI Report January 2014

More time spent on television and video games, less time spent on studying?

Does television watching and playing video games ruin children's minds and keep them from studying? Also, does restricting these activities make a good strategy to boost the number of study hours? In the January issue of the RIETI Report, we present the column "More time spent on television and video games, less time spent on studying?" written for VoxEU by Faculty Fellow Tomohiko Inui in collaboration with his colleagues.

Inui et al. first affirm that the time allocated to studying indeed correlates with higher academic achievement. Focusing on extensive panel data collected from surveys conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare in Japan on newborn children in 2001, they find that each additional hour spent watching television and playing video games leads to less time spent on studying, and that video games have a greater effect than television. Family structure and parental employment status are not associated with a child's time spent on studying, and a crucial determinant is the parents' clear demonstration and communication of their commitment to the child's studying, by which the child then will increase substantially the time spent on studying. However, with a caveat, this may require parents to watch over their child rather than simply telling the child to do so. Finally, Inui et al. give some policy implications to increase the number of hours spent on studying.

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More time spent on television and video games, less time spent on studying?

INUI TomohikoFaculty Fellow, RIETI

MATSUOKA Ryoji Project Researcher, Institute of Statistical Mathematics

NAKAMURO Makiko Associate Professor, Keio University

Many parents believe that TV and video games are 'idiot boxes' that rot their children's minds and crowd out study time. We agree with this general perception, but add the caveat that less time spent on TV or video games does not automatically lead to more time spent on studying. It is easy to detect the correlation but harder to determine causality. If a causal effect is misattributed, keeping children away from idiot boxes and forcing them to their desks may be simply a waste of effort.

We present a question in which every parent may be desperately interested: is eliminating TV and video games a good parenting strategy to boost a child's number of study hours? Is there a trade-off between the time spent on studying and that on TV or video games? These questions may be important not only for parents of school-aged children but also for the central and local government and school districts that design school hours under a in the face of a widening disparity in economic, cultural, and social capitals across households.

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