University of Southern Queensland's Associate Professor Rasheda Khanam and Md Irteja Islam.
University of Southern Queensland's Associate Professor Rasheda Khanam and Md Irteja Islam.

Study finds video games improve students’ academic results

WITH a teenage son who loves playing video games, Associate Professor Rasheda Khanam admitted she was “shocked” with her latest findings.

A new University of Southern Queensland study found students who regularly gamed during the week achieved better academic results.

That does not mean they should ditch the study for an all-nighter in front of the TV.

The study found playing video games and browsing the internet in moderation meant students were more likely to achieve higher scores on the NAPLAN test.

But excessive screen time had a negative impact on students’ reading, writing and numeracy test results.

The research team analysed data of more than 1700 Australian students aged between 11 and 17 from the Telethon Kids Institute’s Young Minds Matter survey.

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They found students who played video games for one to two hours each weekday were 13 per cent more likely to achieve higher reading scores than non-gamers.

The data showed those who played video games for more than two hours on weekends were 16 to 18 per cent more likely to have better reading scores.

The study also found that students who spent more than two hours scrolling through websites on a computer, smartphone or tablet during weekends obtained better results, especially reading and writing.

On the other hand, students who used the internet very often were 17 per cent less likely to score higher in numeracy and 14 per cent less likely to do better in reading than those without such a high use.

Addicted gamers were 15 per cent less likely to do better in reading.

First author and PhD student Md Irteja Islam said the biggest surprise was finding playing video games actually improved reading scores.

“The conventional belief is that screen time is detrimental to academic performance, but this study revealed that moderate use of the internet and video gaming is not as harmful as we think,” he said.

“As browsing the internet and playing electronic games are typically heavy text-based and require you to solve puzzles, in general, it is believed that the academic performance would be better among moderate users than no or addictive users.”

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Study co-author Associate Professor Khanam said she was shocked with the results.

“I myself have a teenage son who spends lots of time video gaming,” she said.

“It came as a surprise.

“(Playing video games and using the internet recreationally) is not as bad as we think. Video games actually improves reading and it showed that on school nights or weekdays, one to two hours is better than not playing at all.”

She said it was very important that parents watch out for any signs of addiction.

“They should discourage excessive internet use on weekdays,” she said.

“Not all video games have guns and violence. Some video games such as Minecraft require geometric skills … some have decision making and problem solving.

“It might stimulate the brain and that’s why it improves reading and numeracy skills.

“We found that more than four hours on the internet for recreational purposes on weekdays has had a negative affect on NAPLAN results.”

Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.