Could Netflix Cost You Your Degree?


For many years now, university students have been renowned for their procrastination techniques, whether it be from endlessly scrolling through social media sites to binge-watching the latest hit series all in one go. We all know that this probably isn’t the best tactic for doing well at university. The worrying extent of this epidemic of excess screen time has just been revealed.

In this day and age, most day-to-day tasks involve the use of some form of screen: anything from scrolling through Facebook, catching up on your favourite TV show or just checking your timetable. However, the real damage done by this has only just been exposed.

A study by Cambridge University revealed that for every extra hour of screen time per day, secondary school pupils dropped an average of 2 GCSE grades (i.e. from a B to a D). The study also suggests that watching television outranked computer games and internet usage at being the most detrimental to students grades, although none of these have a positive impact.

The habits of 800 teenagers (14 1/2 years old) were analysed by the team at Cambridge University, looking specifically at the time spent on activities such as: homework, reading, watching TV, playing video games and going on the internet. Their GCSE exams were taken 1 year after the initial survey.

The data also showed that increased screen time was detrimental. It found out that for every extra hour spent on homework or revision per day, students achieved results that were, on average, 7 grades higher across all subjects. Importantly though, any positive effects of increasing the amount of school work undertaken were underwritten by an increased amount of screen time. This shows that, potentially, more screen time isn’t just affecting grades by decreasing the amount of time spent on homework, but by having a deeply harmful effect.

Despite the fact that this study used GCSE students, the results of it surely would be similar with university students, with it clearly showing the benefits of spending less time attached to a computer screen.

Now, most of you inevitably use Netflix as a procrastination technique, and that does initially seem like a very innocent idea (apart from maybe a few wasted hours). However, with the results of the study showing a two grade shift at GCSE (equivalent to up to 20%), a similar grade shift at university could equal that same change: a change of two degree classifications! On the other hand, this might seem an excessive and exaggerated effect. It seems clear that in order to make your time at university successful, it is a necessity to cut down on internet, in particular television, usage. This is a decision that only you can make for yourself. But, one researcher has put forward a more radical idea to stop this epidemic of harmful internet usage.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Dr. Esther van Slujis, a member of the research team, suggested that

Programmes aimed at reducing screen time could have important benefits for teenager’s exam grades, as well as their health.

Although I imagine the university is some way away from banning students from accessing Netflix, the study does show that if you want that 2:1 badly enough, maybe you should give the next episode of Orange is the New Black a miss.

Interested? Read more details of the study here. 


I'm a 2nd year Biomedical Science student. I have a keen interest in sport, particularly football, and am a TV addict! I am currently SUSUtv's News Exec for 2015/16.

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