Virtual school? Study finds too much computer time lowers math and reading scores in kids


(NEW YORK) — Not every school district in America is doing it, but maybe yours is one of them mandating at-home, virtual classes for school-age kids. 

Which is ironic, based on a new study that finds too much computer time can lower your kids’ reading and math scores.

The study, conducted by Australia’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) and published on the academic website Plos One, found third-graders who spend more than an hour a day on a computer, or watched two hours or more of TV, experienced a 12-point drop in their reading and math scores by the time they began fifth grade.  Those scores were measured using a standardized Australian national assessment program known as NAPLAN.

More significantly, given today’s virtual classrooms, fifth graders aged 10 and 11 suffered a 14-point drop in their math scores if they used a computer more than an hour a day.

But wait, you say.  There’s a difference between using a computer to study reading and math, versus just surfing the web or playing games.  Interestingly, researchers say playing video games, specifically, doesn’t appear to have a detrimental effect on test scores, even though some 25% of kids in grades three to five played them.

So what’s it all mean, in terms of virtual learning?  Researchers don’t seem to be exactly sure. 

“This question about the effects of modern media on children’s learning has never been more important given the effects of the pandemic on children’s use of time,” says MCRI Professor George Patton. “It underlines again the importance of children moving safely back into classrooms and face-to-face learning with their teachers.”

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