Academic Performance, The Internet, Computer Games, and Adolescents

According to a study that investigated the use of the internet and computer games by adolescents, moderate use of the internet was found to be associated with increased academic performance, while the use of computer games was found to be associated with decreased academic performance.

The study was conducted by Teena Willoughby and published in Developmental Psychology in 2008.

In her study, Willoughby administered two questionnaires to 1,591 students from eight different school districts in Ontario, Canada. The students received the first questionnaire in the 9th or 10th grade and received the second questionnaire in the 11th or 12th grade.

The questionnaire assessed a number of factors, including the students friendship quality, parental relationships, academic orientation, frequency of computer game use, and frequency of Internet use.

Willoughby found that “most adolescents (93.9% of boys, 94.7% of girls) reported using the Internet in both early high school and late high school.”

“In contrast, only 80.3% of boys and 28.8% of girls reported playing computer games.”

According to Willoughby, the use of computer games was associated with a decrease in academic performance.

“Of interest, weaker academic orientation showed a trend for prediction of frequency of computer game use in late high school. The direction of the effect, however, is not clear. It could be that adolescents with weaker academic orientations are drawn more to computer gaming, but it also may be that repeated gaming leads to weaker academic orientation.”

The moderate use of the internet, on the other hand, was associated with better grades and higher self-reported academic aspirations. Those who reported using the internet less or excessively tended to have lower levels of academic performance than those who used it moderately.

“Again, causal statements cannot be made based on these findings, but it is clear that adolescents who do not use the Internet for learning tasks, as well as excessive users of the Internet, are at a disadvantage academically.”


Willoughby, T. (2008). A short-term longitudinal study of internet and computer game use by adolescent boys and girls: Prevalence, frequency of use, and psychosocial predictors. Developmental Psychology, Vol 44, No 1: 195-204.

1 Comment

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    Interesting and somewhat unexpected findings. This is a good reminder that it is often true that the technology is a tool that can be a blessing or curse. Thank you providing this.
    Len Cruz