How many of you would agree with this statement:
“The more time you spend on Facebook, the less time you’re going to spend studying.”
I’m sure that a large majority of people would think that’s true – it’s rather intuitive. But according to a study by Lock Haven University professor Reynol Junco, that’s not the case at all.
It seems like every week some report comes out that definitively states that Facebook and other social media (but predominantly Facebook) is turning our children into idiots, drug addicts, anti-social jerks, homicidal maniacs – or all of the above. The collective hand-wringing over the modern age’s addiction to social media never fails to create a boogeyman for the ills of society.
Back in August, research was presented at an America Psychological Association that discussed how Facebook is affecting today’s youth. The study concluded that teens that use Facebook more often were likely to show narcissistic tendencies and signs of other psychological disorders like antisocial behavior and aggressive tendencies.
Another part of that study looked at the impact of Facebook use on learning and found that middle school, high school and college students that checked Facebook once during a study period achieved lower grades.
This new study by Dr. Junco seems to contradict those findings. His sample size was 1,839 students. Here is how he says his study is different from previous studies on the same subject:
This is the first one to : 1. Use a large sample, 2. Include better estimates of Facebook use (time spent on Facebook, number of times students checked Facebook, and frequency of engaging in Facebook activities), 3. Connect survey data to actual grades, and 4. Use high school GPA as a control variable in order to parse out the variance attributable to pre-existing differences in academic ability and to place other predictors in context.
What he found was that Facebook use did affect overall GPA, but so little as to be negligible. Every hour and a half increase in Facebook usage from the mean only decreased GPA by .12 points.
The study also found no link between time spent on Facebook and time spent studying. When a student spends more time checking their news feed, it looks like the time is coming out of some other activity, not their schoolwork.
The way grades were affected has to do with the type of Facebook activity in which the student is engaging. For instance, sharing links was related to a boost in GPA, while posting status updates was tied to a net GPA loss.
Also, Facebook use was an indicator of higher participation in extracurricular activities.
There’s no real way to make a definitive statement about how social media use will affect you or your kid individually, but this study suggests that Facebook is not creating a generation of idiots.
That doesn’t mean that it isn’t turning them into drunken stoners, though.