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Study finds smarter students play online games

Video games pass high school test, but social media is a drag

Students who spend time playing online video games are more likely to gain higher grades in core subjects, according to a new report.

The study — Internet Usage and Educational Outcomes Among 15-Year-Old Australian Students — tracked exam results and the personal habits of 12,000 high school attendees. All had taken an internationally recognized paper called Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) which tests for proficiency in mathematics, science and literacy.

The students also filled out forms highlighting their socio-economic backgrounds as well as their personal lifestyle choices. Use of "online games," both single and multiplayer, was one area of the questionnaire, though individual games were not named.

The results showed that students who play online games almost every day score 15 points above the average in math and reading and 17 points above the average in science.

Economist Alberto Posso, an associate professor at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, created the study. He said that his findings did not prove that gaming makes people smarter, only that there is a correlation between bright students and online games.

Students who play online games score 15 points above the average in math.

His study also compared exam results with usage of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. He found that students who spend a lot of time on social networks tend to underperform (four percentage points below the average) with the academic cost increasing according to time spent socializing online.

"Online games foster a range of skills that promote higher order thinking, which could potentially lead to improvements in math and literacy," stated Posso, though he added that "it could be argued that people who are good at math and reading also enjoy games that allow them to employ, or even sharpen these skills."

Publishing his findings in The International Journal of Communication, he commented, "It's possible that children who are already gifted in the areas of math, science, and reading are also more likely to play online games and children with lower academic abilities spend more time socializing. 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."

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