Regular use of social networks hitting performance at school, study suggests

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Children who regularly use online social networks tend to perform less well in school than pupils who rarely use such sites, research has shown.

The study by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Australia found that students who often use chat sites or Facebook were more likely to fall behind in maths, reading and science.

Yet pupils who play online video games tended to perform better in school, it found.

Students are thought to be able to "apply and sharpen" skills learned in school because gaming requires the player to solve a series of puzzles before moving to the next level, the report's author, Associate Professor Alberto Posso, said. 

Prof Posso, from RMIT's School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, said: "Students who play online games almost every day score 15 points above the average in maths and 17 points above the average in science.

"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.

"Teachers should consider incorporating popular video games into teaching - so long as they're not violent ones."

Prof Posso analysed data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), which measured 12,000 Australian 15-year-old students' reading, maths and science skills and collected data on their online activities.

The findings, published in the International Journal of Communication, suggest that schools should encourage children to use the internet for homework, Prof Posso said.

"Students who are regularly on social media are, of course, losing time that could be spent on study - but it may also indicate that they are struggling with maths, reading and science and are going online to socialise instead.

"Teachers might want to look at blending the use of Facebook into their classes as a way of helping those students engage."