Excessive use of Internet hurts grades, study shows

JAPAN - Excessive use of the Internet adversely affects the academic performance of schoolchildren, a survey by the education ministry indicates.

The survey, the results of which the ministry recently released, on the possible relation between children's academic performance and their lifestyles showed that children who spend many hours on the Internet and video games tend to perform poorly in arithmetic, while children who often watch TV news and read newspapers tend to perform well in the Japanese language.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry analysed national achievement tests given to all students in the sixth grade of primary schools and the third year of middle schools in April. It plans to convey the results of its analysis to each school to help improve teaching methods.

The national tests covered Japanese and mathematics, and each subject included basic comprehension questions and questions to measure applied skills. Students also filled out a questionnaire on their lifestyles, and teachers were asked to answer questions on their teaching methods.

The ministry analysed the relationship between the amount of time students daily spent online and the average percentage of questions answered correctly in the tests. The analysis showed that more time spent online tended to translate into lower scores. For arithmetic comprehension problems for sixth-grade primary school students, students who answered they "spend less than one hour using the Internet" scored the highest average percentage of correct answers-79.5 per cent-while the average for students who used the Internet for "more than four hours" was 68.0 per cent. However, the average of students who said they "never use the Internet" was 77.4 per cent. Thus, the ministry concluded that appropriate use of the Internet can help children acquire valuable knowledge.

Third-year middle school students who answered they "never play video games" scored an average of 46.0 per cent in applied mathematics problems, which was higher than the average of 45.9 per cent of correct answers for students who spend "less than one hour" and the 38.5 per cent correct for students who spend "more than two hours and less than three hours" on video games.

On the other hand, a relation between watching or reading news on TV or the Internet and the average percentage of correct answers shows that sixth-grade primary school students who often watch or read news scored higher in applied Japanese at 52.6 per cent than those who rarely or never watch or read news, at 37.9 per cent. The figure for children who read newspapers "almost every day" stood at 55.8 per cent, while that of children who "rarely or do not read" newspapers was 45.7 per cent.

Of sixth-grade students who did not provide any answer to describe passages in applied Japanese, 23.8 per cent said they did not read a whole book in any given month, which was 12 percentage points higher than the national average.

In terms of schools' teaching methods, primary and middle schools that focused on "making questions that will elicit thought during class" and "classes in which students have opportunities for speaking and activities" tend to have higher average rates of correct answers, according to the analysis.