Gaming linked to better school test scores

Online gaming could help kids do better at solving puzzles (Getty)
Online gaming could help kids do better at solving puzzles (Getty)

If the first thing your kid does after school is fire up a game of Minecraft, perhaps think twice about making them do homework instead.

A new study out of Australia suggests young teens who play online games do better at school than those who don't, and especially better than their friends who spend all their time on Facebook and Snapchat.

Associate Professor Alberto Posso of RMIT University in Melbourne looked at student achievement measured in the OECD's Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

PISA tests hundreds of thousands of 15-year-old students' abilities in maths, reading and science, and also collects information on their internet use, including 12,000 in Australia.

"Students who play online games almost every day score 15 points above the average in maths and 17 points above the average in science," says Dr Posso.

The average score in the PISA tests is 500, so that means online gamers did 1.5 percent better at maths and 1.7 percent in science.

"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."

But kids who spend their days on Facebook score 2 percent worse. Dr Posso says it's probably because time spent poking and chatting is time not spent learning.

"Although this may also be true of video games, gameplay appears to equip students to apply and sharpen knowledge learned in school by requiring them to solve a series of puzzles before moving to the next game level," he says.

It could be however that intelligent kids are more likely to turn to games, says Dr Posso, while those less academically gifted prefer socialising.

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

He also notes that when kids spend too much time gaming - every day - their scores begin to suffer. This also holds true for students who do use the internet to do homework every day.

"This may reflect that some students need to ask more questions or do more online searches because they find the academic material difficult."

Other behaviours linked to poor academic results the study found are more obvious - skipping school, being late and repeating a year the biggest culprits.

Doing homework, overall, was linked to a small improvement in test scores - 0.6 percent for every three hours spent swotting a week.

Dr Posso's research was published today in the International Journal of Communication.