The time students spend “poking” friends, posting photos and updating their status on Facebook may bear some relationship to how they’re faring academically, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that students who use the popular networking site spend less time studying and have lower grade point averages compared to those not on Facebook.
Study co-author Aryn Karpinski, a doctoral student and graduate teaching associate at Ohio State University, said the researchers wanted to look at demographic differences of student Facebook users and non-users and to investigate their typical profiles.
Karpinski and Adam Duberstein of Ohio Dominican University are presenting their research Thursday in San Diego at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Foundation.
The researchers surveyed 219 students at Ohio State – 102 undergraduates and 117 graduates – in the summer and fall quarters of 2008. Of that total, 148 said they had Facebook accounts.
Facebook users were typically younger, full-time students majoring in statistics, technology, math, engineering and medicine, Karpinski said.
When it came to academic achievement, Facebook users surveyed had GPAs between 3.0 and 3.5, a B, compared to non-users with GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0 – an A, said Karpinski.
What’s more, researchers found those on Facebook spent one-to-five hours a week studying compared to their non-Facebook-using counterparts who devoted between 11 and 15 hours weekly to hitting the books.
When asked whether Facebook had an impact on their academic performance, 79 per cent of Facebook users said it didn’t. Students also said it was not having an impact on their grades because they weren’t using it frequently enough – even though nearly 65 per cent said they use their account daily or multiple times daily, Karpinski said.
While not drawing a direct causal link between Facebook and academic achievement, researchers found the disconnect between qualitative and quantitative findings are “cause for concern.”
“I totally agree you cannot say Facebook causes lower GPA or less time spent studying, but there is some kind of relationship there,” Karpinski said. “I hope that the more people that research this area will tease apart the intricacies of this relationship.”
Karpinski hopes students will be inclined to do a little more self-monitoring when it comes to such activity outside of the classroom.
“There are plenty (of) case examples, I’m sure, of students who may read this and say, ‘Well, I’m on Facebook all the time and I have As,”‘ she said.
“I understand there are individual differences, but on the whole, students need to also be aware of how they’re using their time. Do they have good time management skills? Do they have the ability to say, ‘I’ve been doing this activity for too long and I need to cut myself off?”‘
Karpinski said there are a host of other variables that could be influencing the relationship, such as visits to different websites, like YouTube.
Students surveyed were also asked about what other kinds of academic and non-academic websites they use, and Karpinski is hoping to analyze those responses in the future.
The study also found a link between Facebook and activities outside the classroom. Students who worked 15 hours or less a week in paid work or were more involved in extracurricular activities were more likely to be Facebook users.
“Conceivably students that are working and attending college full-time may have large social networks that may include friends at school and work,” the study said. “Therefore, using Facebook to maintain their friendships may be of great importance to students who work long hours.”
Katherine Giroux-Bougard, national chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, said the site has been a great tool in promoting activities on campus, and helps keep students engaged with issues they wouldn’t necessarily hear about elsewhere.
Yet like anything else, the use of social networking sites is a question of self-regulation for students, she said.
“I think on the one hand, like anything else, like television or any other previous social networking tools there’s students that go overboard, but I think in the meantime, students can also lose out if they aren’t part of those sites.”
– The Canadian Press, graphic courtesy of The Huffington Post