Can Facebook lead to failure? Study suggests that struggling students can considerably improve their grades by spending less time on social media.
SYDNEY — Social media is indisputably one of the great time-wasters of the modern era. While quickly checking Twitter or Facebook in between appointments or classes hardly feels all that time consuming, those short visits add up, often times resulting in over ten hours of wasted time each and every week. All that lost time can be especially detrimental for underachieving students. According to a new study, teens struggling to keep up academically can considerably improve their grades by cutting back time spent on social media.
Researchers from the University of Technology Sydney say that high-achieving students don’t seem to be negatively impacted by the amount of time they spend on social media, but students with lower grades can significantly benefit from logging off.
“Time spent on social networking platforms puts lower academic achievers at higher risk of failing their course,” comments study leader Dr. James Wakefield in a release. “Lower achieving students may already be grappling with self-regulation and focus, so it seems time spent on Facebook provides a further distraction from studies.”
The research team examined the amount of time a group of more than 500 freshman college students were spending on social media, and how that time allocation influenced their grades. On average, the students in the study were spending about two hours on Facebook everyday, but some reported using social media for over eight hours each day.
“We found that if they used Facebook for three hours a day – not substantially higher than the average of just under two hours – the difference was around six marks in a 60 mark exam or 10%,” Dr. Wakefield explains.
The study’s authors are hopeful that their findings help teachers and school administrators better understand how social media use influences academic performance. This study focused on university students with an average age of 19 studying STEM and business subjects, but the researchers are confident their work can also be applied to other college students and even high school-aged learners.
Each student’s academic performance was measured using their weighted average mark across all classes, and all participants were surveyed about their social media habits. Other outside influential factors, such as age and gender, were also accounted for by the research team.
In contrast to previous research focused on social media and grade performance, this study was able to examine the differing levels of influence social media has on above average students in comparison to below average students.
“It appears that for students with lower academic achievement, the use of social networking sites replaces study time, whereas high achieving students are able to juggle both,” Dr. Wakefield continues.
Researchers suggest that struggling students turn off social media notifications on their phones, or even better, delete their accounts altogether.
“Try to get into a mode where you can study without looking at your phone or logging on to social networking sites,” Dr. Wakefield suggests.
For teachers, the study’s authors recommend avoiding the use of social media to communicate with students regarding assignments or learning activities.
“Some educators have embraced sites such as Facebook as a tool for engagement, learning and group assignments,” Dr. Wakefield concludes. “However our research suggests educators should use Facebook only for a specific purpose, rather than to communicate with students more generally.”
Students were also surveyed about why they were using Facebook. Reasons included entertainment purposes, to stay in touch with friends or family, or for educational use. Interestingly, even when students reported using Facebook primarily for educational reasons, it was still a hinderance for below average pupils.
The study is published in the scientific journal Computers & Education.