To the collective relief of thousands of procrastinating university students, a new preliminary study at Northwestern University has failed to find “any robust relationship” between Facebook use and lower grades.
This announcement was made after Northwestern researchers tried to replicate the results of a highly publicized Ohio State University study from last April that correlated students who earned lower marks and studied less with Facebook usage.
“We found no evidence of Facebook use correlating with lower academic achievement,” said Eszter Hargittai, associate professor of communication at the school, in a news release late last week.
According to the release, the researchers used information from three existing data sets – including more than 1,000 undergrads at the University of Illinois, Chicago, a national cross-section of 14- to 22-year-olds, and a national panel of American youth aged 14 to 23. No significant negative relationship between grade point averages and Facebook use was found.
“I suspect that basic Facebook use…simply doesn’t have generalizable consequences for grades,” said Hargittai. According to researchers, the doubt cast on the use of social networking sites and their effects on students is reminiscent of suspicions cast on earlier new media, including TV and motion pictures, and their effect on children.
However, Hargittai does concede that Facebook use isn’t necessarily the best thing to being doing if a student wants an A.
“If somebody’s spending an inordinate amount of time on Facebook at the expense of studying, his or her academic performance may suffer,” she said. “ We need more research with more nuanced data to better understand how social networking site usage may relate to academic performance.”