Facebook linked to lower grades

The Family Anatomy Facebook PageNew research being conducted at Ohio State University suggests that university students who regularly use Facebook have lower grade point averages than those who do not use the service. Researchers surveyed 102 undergrads and 117 graduate students, and found that 148 of the 219 participants had Facebook accounts. Eighty-five percent of undergraduates used Facebook, compared to 52 percent of graduate students. There was a striking difference in the amount of time devoted to studying between those with and without accounts, with Facebook users reporting 1 to 5 hours of study per week compared to non-users who studied for 11 to 15 hours. The Grade Point Averages (GPAs) of users generally ranged from 3.0 to 3.5, while non-users achieved GPAs of 3.5 to 4.0. Aryn Karpinski, a doctoral student in education who co-authored the study, admitted that the results do not indicate that Facebook use leads to lower grades, only that a connection exists. She said that, although it is possible that time spent online was distracting students from their studies, the same students might have found other distractions if Facebook didn't exist. The results are also clouded by the disproportionate number of graduate students in the non-user group; when averaged over the groups, grad students in general have higher GPAs than undergrads.

When we talked to Dr. David Dutwin, the author of "Uplug Your Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, Active and Well-Adjusted Children in the Digital Age" (in Episode 52 of the podcast), it was clear that there is not yet a lot of research on Facebook and other social networks, but it seemed that these services allowed kids who might otherwise be isolated to make connections with people who shared their interests. However, there are concerns that excessive use of social networking might have addictive properties. Although it's not yet included as a diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, many psychologists believe that Internet Addiction Disorder may find its way into the 5th edition of the manual. Current definitions of the disorder, which is considered a major health risk in South Korea, indicate that the addiction can fall into three categories: gaming, sexual preoccupations, and e-mail or text messaging. Facebook users would likely fall under the third category of the disorder, which shares many features of other behavioural addictions, such as gambling. It would be interesting find out if there is a "dosage effect" for Facebook use; that is, do students who spend the most time online have the lowest grades? It might also be helpful to get some background information about the students being examined - before they joined Facebook, did they study more regularly or more often? Were their grades higher before they opened their account? Until more research is done, I think the jury is still out on whether Facebook use will cause a decline in grades.

You can read about the Ohio State University study here. Or, if you're not concerned about failing any courses, you can find the Family Anatomy Facebook page here.

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