Social Media Linked to Poor Academic Performance

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

Could texting, tweeting and other use of social media hurt one´s GPA? That´s what researchers from The Miriam Hospital´s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine sought to discover, and the results are that the widespread use of social media among college students, which includes texting to chatting on mobile phones and even just posting status updates on Facebook, could take an academic toll.

According to this new study, many students are engaged nearly half the day in some form of media use. The results of the study were reported online by the journal Emerging Adulthood, an interdisciplinary and international journal for advancement in theory, methodology, and empirical research on development and adaptation during the late teens and twenties.

The study found freshmen women were spending nearly 12 hours a day texting, using the Internet for social media networking, or listening to music and watching videos. Researchers found much of this high use of media was associated with lower grade point averages (GPAs) and other negative academic outcomes.

The exceptions were reading news online or listening to music, which actually was linked to positive academic performance.

This report follows similar research this week that found Facebook use could predict alcohol use and anxiety in college freshmen. That research focused on college aged students and their respective perceived levels of loneliness, anxiety and alcohol and marijuana use in the prediction of emotional connectedness to Facebook, as well as their Facebook connections.

This new study from The Miriam Hospital also contracts a 2011 study conducted at Johnson & Wales University that looked at the effects of social media on college students, which found “as social media sites continue to grow in popularity, it is our premise that technology is a vital part in today´s student success equation.” While social media could play a role in future networking among college grads, it could also be a great distraction for those still taking classes.

The Miriam Hospital study suggests too much media, especially in early adulthood, a time when many young people are living independently for the first time and are away from parental monitoring, could get in the way of academic activities including studying. This research is unique in that it is focused on college students, rather than teenagers still living under the same roof as their parents.

“Most research on media use and academics has focused on adolescents, rather than new college students, or has only examined a few forms of media. So we were curious about the impact of a wider range of media, including activities like social networking and texting that have only become popular in recent years,” said lead author Jennifer L. Walsh, PhD, of The Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine. “We also wanted to know how media use related to later school performance, since there aren’t many longitudinal studies looking at media use and academics.”

For this study, the researchers surveyed 483 first-year college women at a northeast university at the start of the semester, and the students were asked about the use of eleven forms of media. These included television, movies, music, surfing the Internet, social networking, talking on a cell phone, texting, magazines, newspapers and non-school-related books and video games. Those surveyed were asked about the average weekday and weekend usage from the previous weekend.

The researchers found, on average, college women spent nearly 12 hours using media per day, and mobile phones, social networking, movie/TV watching and magazine reading were the most negatively associated with academic outcomes.

“We found women who spend more time using some forms of media report fewer academic behaviors, such as completing homework and attending class, lower academic confidence and more problems affecting their school work, like lack of sleep and substance use,” said Walsh.

The researchers found the best solution might be to embrace it, rather than try to compete with it.

“Given the popularity of social networking and mobile technology, it seems unlikely that educators will be able to reduce students’ use of these media forms,” Walsh added. “Instead, professors might aim to integrate social media into their classrooms to remind students of assignments, refer them to resources and connect them with their classmates.”