You may have seen a report in the news recently suggesting a positive link between playing video games and academic performance.
This conclusion came from a study that analysed data from over 12,000 high school students in Australia and it showed that students who played online video games almost every day performed above-average in academic testing.
The study found that gamers scored 15 points higher than average in maths and reading tests, and 17 points higher than average in science.
But the real question is:
Do gamers achieve better results because they play more video games?
This type of study is not designed to answer the question of causation. And we tend to take these kind of ‘positive links’ with a grain of salt – until further research can shed more light on the matter.
This is not to call into question the credibility of the study, which was conducted by RMIT, and looked to discover links between academic performance and personal interests.
It is simply to say that there is an important distinction between correlation (things that happen to occur together) and causality (where something is directly caused by something else), which the researchers identify, but the headlines can often ignore.
And that there are many factors that can blur this distinction.
For example, perhaps the most academically successful students had more time to play video games because they were able to complete their studies more efficiently and effectively.
It’s also possible that students that are more gifted in maths, logic and science are more likely to enjoy using these skills in online games.
So what do we think about the benefits of video games?
Everything in moderation.
Some video games can help with speed, fine motor skills and visual perception, and this can be beneficial to some extent.
On the other hand, this is not the case with ALL video games.
And these games can be addictive and distracting from more important aspects of study (not to mention physical activity and socialising!).
Keep video games in the ‘fun’ category – a treat or reward for when study and home duties are completed, or for a rainy weekend afternoon.
And hey, if they help your kids with their studies, that’s an added bonus! Just don’t rely on it.