A new study finds a positive link between online gaming and higher grades.

A new study – Internet Usage and Educational Outcomes Among 15-Year-Old Australian Students – tracked the exam results of 12,000 Australian 15-year-old students, and found that those who spend time playing video games online are more likely to earn higher grades in core subjects in school.

The students filled out forms which discussed their lifestyle and behavior choices, with use of single and multiplayer online games being one of the options on the questionnaire. They also participated in a Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, which measures abilities in literacy, math, and science. When scores were compared with the questionnaires, it was found that students who play games online almost every day scored 15 points above average in math and reading and 17 points above average in science.

Not all online behavior showed such a positive result – students who spent a lot of time using social media sites like Twitter and Facebook performed 4 points below the average.

“The analysis shows that those students who play online video games obtain higher scores on PISA tests, all other things being equal,” writes Alberto Posso, an associate professor at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, who published the research. “It is argued that social networks have a high opportunity cost of study. Although this may also be true of video games, gameplay appears to equip students to apply and sharpen knowledge.”

“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.”

It’s not clear from the research whether the games themselves are contributing to higher test scores, or if higher scoring students are more drawn to online gaming. Either way, it’s nice to see a positive study about video games.

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