Frequent video game play linked to lower GCSE grades

Students who frequently play video games perform significantly worse in their GCSEs than their peers who rarely use games consoles, according to new research.

The National Children’s Bureau, which published the study of 14- to 16-year-olds in Northern Ireland, said the findings showed that parents should limit the amount of time their children spent gaming.

The research, funded by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, finds that just 41 per cent of teenagers studied who used portable games players or consoles a “couple of times a day” achieved five good GCSE grades, as opposed to 77 per cent who seldom played games.

However, no link was found between prolonged use of social media sites and poor performance in exams, despite 81 per cent of young people stating that they used the sites daily, in some cases for several hours.

Researchers questioned nearly 1,000 teenagers in 13 different schools across Northern Ireland, with 40 per cent stating that they spent four hours or more online each day in the year running up to taking their GCSEs.

Interestingly, pupils who spent about three hours every day using a computer to do homework achieved the best exam results, with 79 per cent achieving five A* to C grades in their GCSEs.

The study comes at a time when the use of computers and mobile devices has come under increased scrutiny.

A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says that frequent use of computers in schools is impairing learning, and calls for a more considered approach when implementing technology in the classroom.

A similar piece of research by the University of Edinburgh says schools are not spending sufficient time working out how best to incorporate computers into lessons.

Celine McStravick, director of the National Children’s Bureau in Northern Ireland, said the research showed schools should be “regularly setting homework that requires the use of a computer and the internet”, since this was shown to improve results.

But she added: “We need parents and carers to step in and limit excessive amounts of time spent gaming. If we support parents and schools to get this right young people will reap the benefits of using digital technology while sidestepping the pitfalls.”

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