Parents, send your children out of the room. On no account let them read this post. I’m about to reveal something shocking.
Are they all gone? OK, here goes….
Scientists in Australia have discovered a positive correlation between playing online video games and higher exam scores in math, science and reading.
You read that right. According to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, tests on over 12,000 Australian teenagers found that those who regularly played online games scored 15 points above average in maths and reading tests and 17 points above average in science.
Now, I don’t know what your family life is like, but mine is a daily battle over how much screen time the kids get. If my boys find out that playing games helps them at school, that battle may be lost forever. And this study is not an outlier; research by Columbia University linked video game playing in 6-11 year olds with “a greatly increased chance of high intellectual functioning and overall school competence.”
I have to admit that the reason we have a games console is that I’m rather partial to a spot of button-bashing myself. In fact I believe games to be emerging as the dominant narrative art form of the 21st century. If video gaming still makes you think of Space Invaders and Pacman, you’re in for a shock. The best current video games have greater depth and subtlety, and better characterization, than the average Hollywood blockbuster. Sometimes I watch my kids playing, and marvel at the degree of cooperation and creativity that’s going on, whether they’re building castles in Minecraft or designing levels for Little Big Planet.
But correlation is not causation. Perhaps all the studies show is that the more intellectual children are spending time online, while the sporty kids are out playing ball. And academic success is not the only important thing in life. I want my boys to be fit and healthy, to be able to kick and throw and catch, to roam and explore within safe boundaries.
And not all online activity is good news. Heavy users of social media score lower on average, and the more frequent the use the greater the impact on academic achievement. They also have a shorter attention span. Shocking, isn’t it? Parents must be warned. I’d better go right now and post about it on Facebook and WeChat…
Photo: Chris Parfitt via Flickr