Does Watching TV Before Homework Affect Studying?

By Damon Verial

TV has integrated its way into our culture. Today’s mom often has to fight with her children to get them to do their homework on time and with the appropriate effort. Sometimes, it’s easy to compromise and allow your kids to watch TV and do their homework. But studies on the effects of TV on a child’s study time increasingly show that TV can have a detrimental effect on your child’s academic performance.

TV: A Homework Time Sink

Common sense should tell most moms that TV is detrimental to a child’s studying, simply because it eats into that studying time. Television program producers create their programs to entertain and make viewers crave more. When a TV show ends, you might still be pondering the show, whether it’s the cliffhanger of the ending or what you would do in the main character’s circumstance. And as most parents know, an hour of TV could easily turn into two hours, and two hours into three. A habit of watching TV before homework can not only exacerbate but can become more severe in the later years in which homework becomes more complex and college looms.

TV as an Escape

One aspect of TV that moms might neglect and children simply do not know is that TV is often a coping tool for children. If your child is turning on the tube as soon as she returns home, she’s possibly using TV as a tool to escape. Just as true for other forms of media, the TV offers a new world for children, a world in which their problems aren’t present. Regarding homework, a child who habitually turns to the TV before homework might be subconsciously putting aside his main problem, often what’s on that homework assignment lying in his backpack. In this way, not only is TV detrimental to the child’s problem-solving ability, but it is also addictive.

Studies on TV and Academic Performance

Many researchers have turned to science to answer the question about how TV affects a child’s studies. Most of these studies have found a negative correlation between time spent watching TV and academic performance. For example, the article “Adolescent Technology Usage During Sleep-Time” in the RIT Digital Media Library points out a negative correlation between GPA and TV use. The reasons for this relationship might vary for each child, but some conclusions are that children miss out on learning opportunities by watching TV. Even children who watch educational programs are missing out because such programs teach passively instead of actively. Whereas the actual work in homework requires students to actively think and apply their skills, TV before homework does nothing besides bring a child later into the day, to a time in which she’s more tired, has less willpower and is more likely to put it off until tomorrow.

How to Turn Your Child Around

Your child might give you many excuses about why she should watch TV before she gets to her homework, ranging from “I need to take a break first” to “My favorite show is on now.” Whenever you hear such an excuse, ask yourself what’s more important: TV or your child’s academics. Turn your child around by turning her schedule around. As the authority figure, you have the ability to set the rules on how your child arranges her schedule, so do so. Set a rule that requires your child to finish her homework before she watches TV. If this means unplugging the TV, do it.

About the Author

Having obtained a Master of Science in psychology in East Asia, Damon Verial has been applying his knowledge to related topics since 2010. Having written professionally since 2001, he has been featured in financial publications such as SafeHaven and the McMillian Portfolio. He also runs a financial newsletter at Stock Barometer.