Frequent playing of computer games appears to reduce teenagers’ chances of going to university, whereas reading enhances the likelihood that they will study for a degree, according to research carried out by Oxford University that tracked 17 000 people born in 1970.
Reading was also linked to career success. The research found that 16-year-olds who read books at least once a month were significantly more likely to be in a professional or managerial job at the age of 33 than those who didn’t read any books at all.
Playing computer games regularly and doing no other activities meant the chances of going to university fell from 24% to 19% for boys and from 20% to 14% for girls.
For girls there was a 39% probability that they would be in a professional or managerial position at 33 if they read books at 16, compared with a 25% chance if they did not. Among boys there was a 58% chance of being in a good job as an adult if they had read as a teenager, compared with a 48% chance if they had not.
Mark Taylor of Nuffield College, Oxford, who carried out the research, said the results indicated there was “something special” about reading for pleasure. Even after accounting for class, ability and the type of school a child attended, reading still made a difference.
He suggested that other extracurricular activities might prove more beneficial than computer games because they were either communal, such as playing in an orchestra, or had a direct academic application, such as reading. But, while reading helped people access a more prestigious career, it did not bring them a higher salary. None of the extracurricular activities at 16 were associated with a greater or lesser income at 33, the study found.
Also, playing computer games frequently did not reduce the likelihood that a 16-year-old would be in a professional or managerial job at 33.
Taylor added times had changed: “Because this is the 1970 cohort, when they played video games in 1986, that’s not very many people. And the state of videogames in 1986 was nothing like it is now.” —