High rates of computer use are helping Australian students outperform their international counterparts when it comes to using digital texts.
Australia ranked second behind Korea, and equal with New Zealand in the first digital reading literacy assessment conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
It assessed students from 19 countries on their ability to read, understand and apply online and electronic texts.
Their access to and use of information and communication technologies at home and at school was also studied.
A new report by the Australian Council for Educational Research, analysing the 2009 data, found that students in every state performed significantly higher in digital than print reading literacy.
The report's coauthor, Sue Thomson, was not surprised.
''Students are online more often than they ever have been,'' Dr Thomson, the council's director of educational monitoring and research, said.
''So many of them have access to computers at home and at school.''
Dr Thomson said students were generally ''far more engaged with the [digital reading] assessment than they were with the normal print reading literacy assessment. In general, we find when students are more engaged with what they're doing, they're better at it.''
More than 14,000 Australian students aged around 15 were assessed; 95 per cent reported having a computer connected to the internet at home.
Dr Thomson said while Australia's overall results were encouraging, the analysis revealed several areas for concern, including differences in performance according to students' gender and background.
The pattern of girls outperforming boys in literacy was repeated in digital reading. Girls, however, were not as good as boys at navigating online - a crucial skill in the digital age.
Students in government schools, remote areas, indigenous students and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, who were disadvantaged in print reading and other literacy areas, were also disadvantaged in digital reading, the report found.