By Margarita Nahapetyan
If a survey of college students is to be believed, then we have to blame Facebook for significantly lower GPA (grade point averages) in young people who regularly use this social networking Web site.
According to new findings by doctoral candidate and graduate teaching associate Aryn Karpinski of Ohio State University and her colleague Adam Duberstein of Ohio Dominican University, college students who express their membership regularly to the 200-million-member social network, do much worse in school tests, compared to those who do not engage themselves in it. Karpinski said that the goal of the researchers was to look at demographic differences of student Facebook users and non-users and to investigate their typical profiles.
For the study, the investigators surveyed 219 students at Ohio State - 102 undergraduates and 117 graduates - in the summer and fall quarters of 2008. Of all the participants, 148 reported that they had Facebook accounts. The majority of the website users were typically younger, full-time students specializing in statistics, technology, mathematics, engineering and medicine, Karpinski said.
The study found that, when it came to academic achievement, students who used Facebook most frequently, had GPAs between 3.0 and 3.5 (equivalent of B), a full grade lower, compared to non-users with GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0 (equivalent of A), the experts said. In addition, researchers found that Facebook active users spent between 1 and 5 hours per week studying compared to non-user counterparts who devoted between 11 and 15 hours of their time per week to study.
It was also revealed that when asked if there is any link between Facebook and their academic performance, 79 per cent of social network web site users said that there is not. Students also said that their networking habits did not have any impact on their grades because they were not using it frequently enough - even though almost 65 per cent reported that they use their account on a daily basis or even multiple times during a day.
Karpinski said that her findings did not surprise her, but notes that the study does not necessarily suggest that Facebook is directly associated with lower grades, simply that there is some relationship between the two factors. "I hope that the more people that research this area will tease apart the intricacies of this relationship," she said, and added that there might be many other variables to influence the relationship, such as visits to different websites.
The participants who took part in the survey were also asked about what other kinds of academic and non-academic websites they usually used, and researchers are hoping to analyze those answers in their future investigation. The study also found a link between Facebook and students' activities outside the college. For example, those who worked 15 hours or less per week, and were being paid, or were more involved in extracurricular activities, were more likely to be Facebook users.
"Conceivably students that are working and attending college full-time may have large social networks that may include friends at school and work," the study said. Therefore, using social networking web sites in order to maintain their friendships may be very important to students who work long hours, the experts concluded.
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association on April 16.