• “It’s thought that online video games can sharpen students’ existing skills, as kids are having to constantly solve puzzles..." (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Parents who want their teenagers to excel at school should let them play challenging online games to improve their maths, reading and science skills but tell them to get off Facebook, according to the results of a new Australian study.
By
Yasmin Noone

9 Aug 2016 - 1:53 PM  UPDATED 13 Nov 2018 - 8:27 AM

If parents ever needed a scientific reason to tell their teenagers to get off Facebook, here it is.

A new Australian study released today finds that 15-year-olds who use Facebook and other chat sites regularly are more likely to perform worse in maths, reading and science compared to their peers who rarely use social sites.

The research, which uses Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development global data, shows that teenagers who visit Facebook every day scored 20 points lower in maths than other students who don't use social media or chat sites.

The study also identifies that the more a teen uses Facebook and chat sites, the poorer their grades. Meanwhile, almost 80 per cent of the 12,000 children studied as part of the research used online social networks almost every day or every day.

“A student who uses online social networks once or twice a month scores eight points lower [for all subjects] than the average,” the study’s paper reads.

“Similarly, a student who uses online social networks can expect to score lower in reading and science by similar magnitudes.”

“A student who uses online social networks once or twice a month scores eight points lower [for all subjects] than the average."

But before you plan to hide your 15-year-old’s laptop or tablet, there is some good news. The research also reveals that playing online video games can improve their maths, reading and science skills considerably.

For example, students who played online games almost every day scored 15 points above the average in maths and 17 points above the average in science.

“It’s thought that online video games can sharpen students’ existing skills, as kids are having to constantly solve puzzles, jump through different hoops or find the right key for the right lock to progress in a game,” says Associate Professor Alberto Posso, from RMIT’s School of Economics, Finance and Marketing.

“While they are doing all of this, they are also developing problem-solving, logical thinking and comprehension skills. These are the underlying skills they need to perform well in reading, math and science and they can also enhance cognitive ability.”

“Teachers might want to look at blending the use of Facebook into their classes as a way of helping those students engage.”

Given that 97 per cent of children aged between 15 and 17 report going online frequently, A/Prof Posso recommends that teachers merge educational value of online games with a teenager’s interest in social media by posting challenging games to Facebook.

“Teachers might want to look at blending the use of Facebook into their classes as a way of helping those students engage.”

He also advises parents to determine the moral value of each online game before they give their teen the green light to play and urges against a blanket ban on Facebook and other social chat sites.

Although regular use doesn’t improve academic results, he says infrequent use might be okay if teens use the sites to build networks of valuable contacts, which “could be a determinate for success and networking in the labor market as teenagers get older”.

It’s important to remember that social networking has value in that we live in a social and online world. A lot of people we meet at school may become useful to us later on when we enter the labor market.

“So social networks may not be a determinant of success in reading, math and science during high school, but they could be a determinate for success and networking in the labor market as teenagers get older.”

A new six-part SBS series Child Genius hosted by Dr Susan Carland follows the lives of Australia’s brightest children and their families and will see them testing their abilities in maths, general knowledge, memory and language.

The quiz show will be broadcast over two weeks starting November 12. Episodes will be aired Monday to Wednesday at 7.30pm. 

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