College Facebook Fans Get Lower Grades

Ohio State is the first to find a relationship between the use of Facebook and academic performance.

College students who use Facebook spend less time hitting the books and get lower grades than students who haven't signed up for the popular social networking site, a university study showed.

The Ohio State University study also found that Facebook fans in college are in denial. Nearly eight in 10 claimed that their use of the site didn't interfere with their studies and that academics was a priority for them.

"We can't say that use of Facebook leads to lower grades and less studying, but we did find a relationship there," Aryn Karpinski, co-author of the study and a doctoral student at OSU, said in a statement.

While the study was small and exploratory in nature, it was the first to find a relationship between the use of Facebook and academic performance, the university said. Typically, Facebook users in the study had grade point averages between 3.0 and 3.5, while nonusers had GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0.

In addition, users said they averaged one to five hours a week of studying, while nonusers studied 11 to 15 hours per week.

The researchers surveyed 219 students at Ohio State, including 102 undergraduates and 117 graduate students. Fully, 148 of the participants had a Facebook account.

Overall, the study found that 85% of undergraduates are Facebook users at Ohio State, while only 52% of graduate students have accounts. Students who spent more time working at paid jobs used Facebook less than those who were more involved in extracurricular activities at school.

Science, technology, engineering, math, and business majors were more likely to use Facebook than were students majoring in the humanities and social sciences. One reason for the difference may be that the latter students spend less time on the Internet, Karpinski said.

There were no differences in Facebook use between racial and ethnic groups or between men and woman, the study found. However, younger and full-time students were more likely to use the social network.

Despite the findings, Karpinski warned against drawing the conclusion that Facebook use leads to lower grades.

"There may be other factors involved, such as personality traits, that link Facebook use and lower grades," she 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 said it was particularly significant that graduate students who use Facebook had lower grades. Those students typically have GPAs above 3.5, so the fact that even they had lower grades and spent less time studying was a significant finding.

Because of the popularity of Facebook, it's important for universities to understand its impact on students, Karpinski said. As to herself, she doesn't have a Facebook account.

"For me, I think Facebook is a huge distraction," she said.

Facebook's popularity continues to grow. The site last week said it had signed up its 200 millionth user. Facebook's closest rival, MySpace, has about 160 million members, according to ComScore.

Karpinski and co-author Adam Duerstein of Ohio Dominican University are scheduled to present their findings Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association in San Diego.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on the business uses of social networks. Download the report here (registration required).

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