A new study shows video games can help students sharpen skills learned in school, but students who used social media regularly perform worse in maths and sciences.

The RMIT University study tested more than 12,000 Australian 15-year-olds in maths, reading and science, as well as collecting data on the students' online activities.

School of Economics, Finance and Marketing associate professor Alberto Posso said teachers should take heed of their findings.

He said students who play online games almost every day score 15 points above the average in maths and 17 points above the average in science.


But he says teenagers who used Facebook or chat every day scored 20 points worse in maths than students who never used social media.

Posso said it could be because they're online instead of studying, but it may also indicate that they are struggling with maths, reading and science.

Even so, he said sites such as Facebook could be used as a tool to pick up disengaged students.

"Teachers might want to look at blending the use of Facebook into their classes as a way of helping those students engage."

The research, "Internet usage and educational outcomes among 15-year-old Australian students" has been published in the International Journal of Communication.