While excessive screen time has negative impacts on school students’ reading, writing and numeracy NAPLAN test results, the study found playing video games and browsing the internet in moderation meant students were more likely to achieve higher 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,” said first author Md Irteja Islam, a PhD student at the University of Southern Queensland.
“The biggest surprise was that playing video games actually improved reading scores.”
The research team analysed data of more than 1700 Australian students aged 11-17, gained from the Telethon Kids Institute’s Young Minds Matter survey.
It showed 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, while 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.
It 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.
“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,” Mr Islam said.
“However, recreational internet use on a school night, especially if it is for more than four hours appeared to damage students’ scores.”
The study revealed that internet addiction had a negative impact on reading and numeracy scores.
Students who very often used the internet 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 addition, while addictive gamers were 15 per cent less likely to do better in reading.
For these reasons, the study’s co-author Associate Professor Rasheda Khanam said it was vital that parents monitor the amount of screen time their children have and what content they access.
“Parents should not worry about internet use and video gaming as long as they can make sure that children are not addicted to these and limit internet use during weekdays,” Associate Professor Khanam said.
The study ‘Effect of internet use and electronic game play on academic performance of Australian children’ was published in journal Scientific Reports and is available here.
Associate Professor Rasheda Khanam and Md Irteja Islam.