College Facebook Users Have Lower GPAs

June 8, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Data-driven | Media & Entertainment | Personalization | Youth & Gen X

College students who use Facebook spend less time studying and have lower grade-point averages (GPAs) than students who have not signed up for the popular social networking site, according to a study by researchers at Ohio State University.

While the study of 219 OSU graduate and undergraduate students did not uncover a direct cause-and-effect link between Facebook use and lower grades, it did uncover a relationship that, they said, could merit further exploration.

Key findings from the study:

  • 85% of undergraduates were Facebook users, while 52% of graduate students had accounts.
  • Facebook users in the study had GPAs between 3.0 and 3.5, while non-users had GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0.
  • Facebook users say they averaged one to five hours a week studying, while non-users studied 11 to 15 hours per week.
  • Students who spent more time working at paid jobs were less likely to use Facebook, while students who were more involved in extracurricular activities at school were more likely to use Facebook.
  • Science, technology, engineering, math and business majors were more likely to use Facebook than were students majoring in the humanities and social sciences.
  • There were no differences in Facebook use between different members of racial and ethnic groups that were part of the study, or between men and women.
  • Younger and full-time students were more likely to be Facebook users.

At the same time as the research revealed that Facebook users have lower GPAs, 79% of Facebook users in the study claimed it did not have an impact on their academic performance. In open-ended questions on the survey, users reported they didn’t use Facebook frequently enough to notice an impact, and emphasized that academics were a priority for them.

Further Exploration Needed

Though the study was small and of an exploratory nature, the researchers noted that it is one of the first of its kind to explore and discover a link between college students’ use of Facebook and their academic achievement.

“We can’t say that use of Facebook leads to lower grades and less studying ‘ but we did find a relationship there,” said Aryn Karpinski, co-author of the study and an OSU doctoral student.

Karpinski said it was significant that the link between lower grades and Facebook use was found even in graduate students. She noted that graduate students generally have GPAs above 3.5, so the fact that even they had lower grades when they used Facebook – and spent less time studying – was an amazing finding.

The study opens the door for further exploration between social networking and academic performance. “There may be other factors involved, such as personality traits, that link Facebook use and lower grades,” Karpinski said. “It may be that if it wasn’t for Facebook, some students would still find other ways to avoid studying, and would still get lower grades. But perhaps the lower GPAs could actually be because students are spending too much time socializing online.”

Karpinski also noted, anecdotally, that OSU faculty members who allow students to bring laptop computers to class often notice them surfing and interacting on FaceBook, among other sites, during instructional time.

About the study: The research was conducted among 219 students at OSU, including 102 undergraduate students and 117 graduate students. Of the participants, 148 said they had a Facebook account. Karpinski conducted the study with Adam Duberstein of Ohio Dominican University.

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