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Facebook not to blame for negative impact on grades


Washington: The negative relationship between Facebook use and grades has little to do with the social networking site Facebook, a new study has found.

Helping college students balance social media use and schoolwork is better than disconnecting, researchers said.

The study by Reynol Junco, an associate professor at Iowa State University, found that while freshman struggle to balance their use, social media is less of a problem for upper classmen. The difference relates to self-regulation.

Junco surveyed more than 1,600 college students about their Facebook behaviour, looking at time spent strictly using the social networking site and time spent on Facebook while multitasking.

For freshmen, all Facebook use had a negative impact on their grades. For sophomores and juniors, only time spent using Facebook while doing schoolwork hurt their GPA. For seniors, there was no relationship between the two.

It would be easy to conclude that simply spending less time on Facebook would improve a student’s GPA, but Junco cautions against rushing to that conclusion.

Certain tasks on Facebook, such as sharing links and checking in with friends, were positively linked to GPA, said Junco.

In previous research, Junco found that tasks, such as creating or RSVP’ing to an event, were positively linked to student engagement.

“It’s not just the way students are accessing the site, but the way in which they’re using the site that has an effect on academic outcomes,” Junco said.

“Students use social media to make friends and create the support network they need. If they’re committed to their social circles, then they’re also committed to their institution, and that’s a major part of academic success,” said Junco.

The negative relationship between Facebook use and GPA has little to do with Facebook, Junco said.

Instead it is reflective of a broader issue, one that all students must confront when they go to college – self-regulation. And in that regard, Facebook use is no different than any other distraction for students.

“Freshmen have all of these adjustment issues. They come to college and they don’t know what to do, because they don’t have a parent or teacher telling them when to study, what to eat or when to go to bed,” Junco said.

“They haven’t developed the self-regulation skills that they need,” said Junco.

Most students will develop that skill throughout their college career. But Junco says higher education professionals can offer more assistance and teach students about responsible Facebook use, rather than telling them to completely abstain from social media.

Taken in consideration with his other studies on this topic, Junco said the negative effect on GPA does not outweigh the positives associated with social media use, student engagement and academic success.

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.

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