Critics of Facebook — most notably skeptics in academia — have long questioned the social networking site’s effects on students’ grades.
But a 2011 study found that Facebook affects college students’ grades little, if at all.
“Using Facebook in and of itself is not detrimental to an academic outcome such as GPA, or a time on task outcome, like time spent studying,” said researcher Reynol Junco, a professor in the Department of Academic Development and Counseling at Lock Haven University in Pennsylanvia.
Though the study found a small association between extensive Facebook use and a small drop in GPA, this does not prove that either one causes the other.
“It seems that only large amounts of time spent on Facebook produce the greatest effect on outcome measures such as GPA and time spent studying,” Junco said. “The simple act of checking Facebook is not as worrisome a behavior when it comes to academic outcomes as time spent on Facebook.”
Junco said he found certain activities on Facebook could be beneficial for college students’ GPAs. Sharing links and checking to see what friends are up to are “positive predictors” of GPAs, the study found.
“Sharing links on Facebook seems as close to an academic activity as any others because links usually refer to blog posts or news stories,” Junco said. “Checking to see what friends are up to may be related to the construct of student engagement — leading to greater academic gains.”
But posting status updates could negatively affect GPAs, he said.
“Posting status updates, on the other hand, is an activity that is more focused on broadcasting personal information than it is on sharing knowledge,” Junco said.
There was no strong link between using Facebook and the amount of time that students spent studying, according to the study.
Junco surveyed 1,839 college undergraduates attending public schools in the Northeast.
Unsurprisingly, the survey, which considered college students’ high school GPA, frequency of Facebook use and frequency of Facebook activities, found students spent a lot of time on the website, he said.
But Junco discovered that students visited Facebook six times each day on average.
“Ninety-two percent of students reported spending at least some time on Facebook,” Junco said. “Facebook users in this sample spent a substantial amount of time on Facebook, reporting a mean of 106 minutes on the site per day.”
Junco conducted the study differently from other researchers who previously tried to prove whether Facebook affected grades.
“My study was different because I used a large sample and looked at what students [actually] did on Facebook,” Junco said.
Many University students also believe that Facebook affects grades depending on the frequency of its use.
School of Arts and Sciences junior Raven McKenzie agreed with the idea that the time spent on Facebook affects grades, not Facebook itself.
“I think people let it affect their grades by being on it so much,” McKenzie said. “So it depends on the person and if they use it too much.”
School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Meghan Schroll said she thinks Facebook affects college students’ participation in the classroom.
“It’s definitely a distraction during class,” Schroll said.
Victoria Hutchinson, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said Facebook is a diversion while studying.
“[I think] it does affect grades. People sometimes get distracted using Facebook,” Hutchinson said.
Junco said Facebook could help both students and educators for the future.
“As the interest in using social media, like Facebook, in educational settings increases, educators must be aware of how to integrate these sites and services in educationally relevant ways,” he said.