A recent study conducted by Alberto Posso of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology looked at the relation between academic performance and the students’ personal interests outside of school, including internet usage. The findings suggested that using social networks has a negative impact on çhildren’s progress at school, but Posso also concluded that playing video games is linked with an increase in a child’s grades.
Students who play online video games tend to do better in science, math, and reading tests, said Posso after analyzing the data from over 12,000 high school students in Australia who took the 2012 Pisa tests. According to the researcher, children who regularly played video games scored 15 points above average in mathematics and reading tests and 17 points above average in science. However, as Posso explicitly noted, the research methodology cannot prove that playing video games was the reason for higher grades:
“The analysis shows that those students who play online video games obtain higher scores on Pisa tests, all other things being equal. 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 explained that it was possible that children who are gifted at math, science, and reading were more likely to be interested in video games. Alternatively, it could be that more proficient students manage their time more properly and efficiently, which gives them more free time to spend on gaming. However, Posso recommended the high school teachers to implement video games in classrooms as long as they do not contain violence.
The research also took a look at the correlation between social media usage and Pisa scores. Based on the results, he concluded that Facebook and Twitter users were likely to score 4% lower on average, and the more frequent users the students were, the bigger the difference. 78 percent of the respondents admitted they used social media sites on a daily basis.
According to Posso, Australian teenagers who are regularly on social media were losing precious time that could be spent on studying. However, it could also indicate that they had problems with math, reading, and science subjects and were going online to make new friends and socialize instead of studying harder.
In this case, Posso recommended that teachers use Facebook in class to help their students engage with the coursework. The research also concluded that indigenous teenagers or those from minority ethnic or linguistic groups were also at risk of falling behind than those using Twitter and Facebook each day.
Besides the use of social media channels, Posso also admitted that there were other factors that could have a great impact on teenagers’ progress at school. Repeating an academic year or skipping classes, for instance, could be as bad for scores as increased use of social media, he said.
The study also concluded that while Australian adults spend as much time on the internet as American or European adults, Australian teenagers spend significantly more time online than their American or European peers. However, Posso did not advocate that Australian parents stop their kids from accessing social media and suggest that they play video games. He suggested that video games influence teenagers in a positive way by requiring them to apply and increase knowledge gained in school.