Teenagers who regularly play online games are more likely to get better school results, according to a new study from RMIT. But social media is a waste of time and likely to lead to worse results.
the more that students used online social networks, the lower their skill and knowledge scores in mathematics, reading, and science. However, online gaming was found to have a positive effect on these scores.
The study uses data from the PISA study which is based on test scores in math, reading, and science from 12,018 15-year-old students from 772 schools across Australia. The results were then correlated with internet activities. The social network variables included activities such as using Facebook and Twitter, as well general online chatting. The online video games variables included both multiplayer and solo games. There were a bunch of sensible control variables that don’t bear recounting but are clearly laid out in the paper.
The results of the research were that using online social networks, such as Facebook or chatting, was significantly associated with lower performance in math, reading, and science. The results suggest that a student who uses online social networks on a daily basis will also obtain a grade in math that is 20 points lower than a student who never uses this type of social media. The results were similar for reading and science. in summary: “social networks have a high opportunity cost of study.” That’s significant.
On the other hand gaming correlated with higher scores in maths, reading and science. The report’s author postulates that this may be because gaming gives useful skills:
That is to say, although there may be an opportunity cost of gaming in terms of educational outcomes, it is possible that a number of skills associated with online gaming correlate positively with generalized knowledge and skills tests in math, reading, and science. This may be because many online games require players to solve puzzles that, in turn, require some understanding of these three subjects.
The alternative, or at least linked, hypothesis of course is that perhaps people who are good at these subjects like to play online games and don’t online socialise so much. There may be something to that; but it has to be recognised that even basic shooter games involve a level of problem-solving and active thought that is significantly beyond that required to laugh at another kitten picture.
Use of the Internet for research, study, and contacting teachers also improved results – although that’s surely a less controversial finding.
Look, all of this doesn’t mean that parents and teachers should be running out and forcing students to play online games (a teenager’s dream). But it does mean that perhaps the continual hand-wringing and worry about kids playing computer games may be unjustified – as long as they don’t over-do it. On the other hand, even a little time on social networks can be detrimental to results.
Interesting, isn’t it?
Internet Usage and Educational Outcomes Among 15-Year-Old Australian Students by Alberto Posso from RMIT can be downloaded for free from the International Journal of Communication.