Video Games Don’t Rot Your Brain, But Social Media Might

Ever since Pong made its way into hearts and homes everywhere, kids have battled to disprove that video games rot your brain. A recent study, however, may help gamers put an end to the myth, but leaves social media addicts to fight the battle instead.

Avid Gaming Produces Above Average Scores

Researcher Alberto Posso from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology analyzed the results of a 2012 international assessment of high school students and its correlation to those students’ hobbies and interests. The study found that players of online video games scored above average in math, science, and reading. What this suggests is that video games not only don’t rot your brain, but they may help you do better in school.

Posso’s study is just one of many that show positive cognitive effects from gaming. According to a 2013 study by the American Psychological Association, video games, including those thought to be violent, not only improve learning but have health and social benefits, as well.

High Social Media Use Produces Lower Than Average Scores

While students who regularly play video games received above average scores, those who spend significant time on social media sites didn’t fare so well. Making a hobby of browsing Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram proved to produce scores below average on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). In math alone, avid Facebook users scored 20 points worse than students who never use social media. Posso theorizes that social media takes from the time that should be spent studying, or those who struggle in subjects such as math, science, or reading use these sites as a distraction.

Video Games as an Educational Tool

It’s important to note that the correlation does not imply casualty, meaning video games alone don’t make you a genius and social media won’t make you a high school dropout. However, this study could give way to new resources for parents and teachers. Utilizing online games may not only boost student interest, but it could actually boost their grades. Players often get engrossed in the games, and it may be no different in the classroom. Game-based learning could help students immerse themselves in the subject matter.

The type of video game used in the classroom is important and might depend on the subject matter. Games that have a rich storyline with a powerful narrative and interesting setting could prove valuable to English or History teachers, while subjects like Math and Science might benefit from games that use problem-solving and complex strategy. Either way, students are bound to respond more to the online game than a standard worksheet.

It’s still to be determined whether The Oregon Trail gave ‘90s kids an accurate depiction of what it was really like during Western expansion, but today’s studies do show modern video games have a positive effect on students. Social media, on the other hand, not so much. So put down your phone, pick up that controller, and start learning.

Image via Flickr by RebeccaPollard