Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat aren’t the main culprits when it comes to harming a child’s chances in exams – it’s more likely to be video games.

A study has shown that 77% of 14- to 16-year-olds who rarely play games achieve five “good” GCSE grades compared to 41% who play games twice a day.

Although 81% of young people use social media daily, no link was found between intensive posting and poor exam performance.

The National Children’s Bureau in Northern Ireland found that 40% of children spend four or more hours a day online during their GCSE year. Those who use their phones and tablets marginally less – three hours a day – obtained the best GCSE results while those with no internet access at home suffered. 29% got five good grades compared to 68% with Wi-fi at home.

NCB’s Celine McStravick said: “Our research shows that using a computer for homework can help pupils consolidate learning and do better in exams, so schools should be regularly setting homework that requires the use of a computer and the internet.”

Other findings include:

  • Access to a computer/laptop at home is not an issue for the vast majority of young people with at least 95% of the sample reporting having access.
  • Social networking and gaming were identified by parents/carers and teachers as activities that could most negatively impact on young people’s attainment.
  • School staff were particularly concerned about extent of gaming, reporting a number of issues relating to attendance, punctuality and motivation.
  • Internet safety is a particular concern for schools and parents/carers however young people themselves appeared more comfortable with their own safety online.

However, the picture is not entirely clear. Another study has revealed that teenagers who play video games in moderation perform better in subjects such as maths, science, reading and problem solving.

If the games are played once a month up to every other day, an improvement is noted says the Programme for International Student Assessment’s study into 15-year-olds. But if the teenager is playing once a day the benefits drop away.

It also showed that those who played multi-player collaborative online video games, like World Of Warcraft, performed worse than those using single-player games.

Because boys are more likely to use multi-player games, it entrenches the academic advantage for girls, the research found.