Parents’ fears about the impact of gaming on their children’s academic performance may be misplaced, new research suggests.
Scientists at RMIT University in Melbourne found that students who play online games almost every day actually score significantly better in tests.
Frequent gamers scored 15 points above the average in maths and 17 points higher than the average in science, the study revealed.
The researchers believe that games help students practise skills they learn at school.
Albert Posso, an associate professor at RMIT, analysed the globally recognised PISA test results of 12,000 Australian 15-year-olds.
He looked at scores in maths, reading and science, and also collected data about students’ online activities.
“When you play online games you’re solving puzzles to move to the next level and that involves using some of the general knowledge and skills in maths, reading, and science that you’ve been taught during the day,” Posso told Wired.
“Teachers should consider incorporating popular video games into teaching – so long as they’re not violent ones.”
Posso also looked at the impact of social media on academic achievement.
His study found that students who visit sites like Facebook on a daily basis are more likely to struggle with subjects such as maths, reading and science, by as much as 20 points in some cases.
“Students who are regularly on social media are, of course, losing time that could be spent on study – but it may also indicate they are struggling with maths, reading and science and are going online to socialise instead,” Posso said.
“Teachers might want to look at blending the use of Facebook into their classes as a way of helping those students engage.”
However, not all researchers believe that the study is conclusive. Peter Etchells, senior lecturer in biological psychology at Bath Spa University, told the Guardian: “A number of researchers have been trying to highlight this issue for a while but we really need more detailed research and nuanced data to answer these sorts of questions more confidently.”
Posso’s research was published in the International Journal of Communication.