Is there a relationship between using Facebook and getting lower grades in college? A recent study exploring this topic came up with some interesting conclusions.
Dr. Reynol Junco, a professor at the Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, discussed the results of his Facebook study in his October 10, 2011 post for Social Media in Higher Education. The post titled, “Too much face and not enough books? Facebook use and academic performance,” summarized his research on the relationship between multiple indices of Facebook use and academic performance. Participants in the study responded to an online survey sent in an email from the university.
Responses to the survey showed that:
- The percentage of respondents reported using Facebook was 92
- The average amount of time spent per day on Facebook was 106 minutes
- The average time spent per visit to Facebook was 24 minutes
- The average number of Facebook visits per day was six
Junco noted that three other studies have explored the connection between Facebook use and grades, but his study was the first to include:
- A large sample of 1,839 undergraduates
- Better estimates of the time spent on Facebook and how it was spent
- Connections between survey data and grades
- The use of high school GPA as a predictor of academic ability
Is Facebook affecting grades? Junco’s study was correlational in that it explored a possible relationship. Correlational studies, however, do not provide a final answer to the research question. While it appears that Facebook use does impact grades there could also be other factors at work such as motivation, personality characteristics and academic values.
“Specific uses of Facebook are related to positive outcomes while others are related to negative ones. Therefore, Facebook use in and of itself is not detrimental to academic outcomes, it depends on how it is used. Using Facebook for socializing is negatively related to GPA while using Facebook for collecting and sharing information is positively related,” Junco explained.
So should students be discouraged from using Facebook? Not at all, according to Junco who uses Facebook groups in his classes for online discussions. Sarah Kessler also explored the question of Facebook use in her October 11, 2011 post for Mashable.com titled, “No, Facebook Is Not Ruining Your Grades.” After reviewing Junco’s study Kessler concluded, “This doesn’t necessarily mean forgoing Facebook status updates and chat is likely to improve a student’s grades. Nothing in the study implies cause and effect. Instead, it seems that what’s important about Facebook in an educational context has very little to do with how much time you spend on it.”
Just as researchers have explored the possible effects of television and video games on academics and developmental psychology, they are also keenly interested on how social media and Internet use in general impacts users. Wesley Austin and Michael W. Totaro reviewed the reasons for researchers’ interest in online activities in their 2011 article for the Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research titled, “High School Students’ Academic Performance and Internet Usage.”
As to why such research is of benefit the authors said, “Regardless of whether academic performance is positively or negatively impacted by Internet use, a better understanding and greater awareness about such issues might facilitate changes in pedagogy by educators, as well as learning on the part of students and the support they receive from their parents.”
The Data Shows
Austin and Totaro conducted their own study of Internet use by high school students. They found that those students who use the Internet both at school and at home earned higher grades than those students who did not use the Internet at all. Students who used the Internet only at school or who used the Internet only at home earned lower grades than students who did not use the Internet at all. The authors speculated that the reason for lower grades might be related to the time lost that could have been applied to study and homework. These results lead the authors to conclude that there is a level of “optimal use” and that students who are above or below this level will earn lower grades.