A new study from researchers at the RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia shows that teenagers who regularly play online video games experience an improvement in their school performance. On the other hand, the research team also found that students who visit Facebook and other chat sites tend to fall behind in reading, science and mathematics.

“Students who play online games almost every day score 15 points above the average in maths and 17 points above the average in science,” points out Alberto Posso, an associate professor from RMIT’s School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, in a press release. “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,” he said.

Posso adds that teenagers who used Facebook or chat daily averaged 20 points lower in maths than those who never used social media. Posso explains that these students lose a lot of time using social media. They should spend their time studying these school subjects instead.

Online Games

Online Games. Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Cyd. M. Vargas

High use of social media is just as bad as repeating an academic year or skipping classes, the researcher points out. Still, Facebook users are in a much better position than indigenous students are or students from other minority ethnic or linguistic groups since these students have a higher risk of falling behind.

Posso says that the findings show that teachers should start considering other factors that can influence a student’s progress. The researcher advises the use of popular video games, except the violent ones, into teaching. Facebook can also be incorporated into the class to engage the students.

The study involved more than 12,000 Australian teens aged 15 years. The findings are now available in the International Journal of Communication.