Research that found users of Facebook tend to have lower grades got a lot of attention last month, but a new study from a different research team is calling that conclusion into question.
The initial study, in the form of a draft manuscript from researchers at Ohio State University, found that Facebook users‘ grade point averages were in the 3.0 to 3.5 range, compared to 3.5 to 4.0 for non-users. Aryn Karpinski, education researcher, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that this suggested a relationship but did not prove causation.
A more recent study done by Eszter Hargittai, Josh Pasek and Eian More found that there was no relationship. That study used a sample of over 1,000 undergraduates at the University of Chicago and found no negative relationship between GPAs and Facebook use.
Pasek is a doctoral student at Stanford University and More is a researcher with the University of Pennsylvania’s Adolsescent Risk Communication Institute.
“I suspect that basic Facebook use – what these studies measure – simply doesn’t have generalizable consequences for grades,” said Hargittai, an associate professor of communication studies at Northwestern University.
She added that the Internet and social networking sites in particular can be used in any number of ways, some of which may be beneficial to the user and others not as much. She also said that it’s not so much a question of whether people use these sites, but what they do on them.
What’s more, the relationship in the initial study only shed light on a relationship, and not causality. While students who use Facebook may experience lower grades, it may be due to their prioritizing skills and natural inclination to use Facebook to a greater extent than higher achievers do.
Jerry Cook, assistant family and consumer sciences professor at Sacramento State University, said it’s not necessarily Facebook that’s having the deleterious effect on students‘ grades.
“Just because there is a relationship, doesn’t mean it’s directly related,” he said. “Facebook is a distraction. But just like anything else, the more time you put into something the less time you have for something else.“
UCD first-year psychology major Kelly Targett acknowledged both the pitfalls and the benefits of Facebook.
“Facebook is a good procrastinating tool, and a good way to waste a lot of time doing nothing,” Targett said. “It always delays my homework for 15 to 20 minutes.“
On the other hand, Targett acknowledged that Facebook can be a learning tool because you can interact with people from your classes and get help on assignments.
“It’s not the reason people have bad grades,” she said. “They just need to learn to prioritize.“
The complete study appears in the online journal First Monday and can be viewed at tinyurl.com/cwo2wy.
ELENI STEPHANIDES can be reached at email@example.com.