Study: Facebook Not Responsible for Lower GPAs

By Sarah Klein

Ohio State University created a media frenzy last month when researcher Aryn Karpinski announced a study indicating that students who use Facebook recorded lower GPA scores and study less that other students. At the time, the research was only in draft form and was not being considered for publication, but the story was seized on by hundreds of news outlets and made headlines for days. No doubt, many concerned parents brought it to the attention of their bewildered children and demanded they re-think their online social networking schedule!

But the preliminary study didn’t hold up so well under closer examination. Eszter Hargittai of Northwestern University, Josh Pasek of Stanford, and Eian More of the University of Pennsylvania attempted to replicate the findings of the Ohio State study using much broader samples drawn both nationally and from first-year students at the University of Illinois. They concluded that there was no evidence linking lower academic achievement to Facebook use. Their findings, published in the online journal First Monday, are presented as a fact-based rebuttal to the media sensation caused by the Ohio State study.

The researchers believe that statistics about Facebook use are simply too difficult to generalize as having a significant effect on grades, just as research was undecided about the effects of other “new media,” like television and movies, when they first emerged.

Of course, if a student is spending so much time on Facebook that he or she is sacrificing time for study, exercise or sleep, then the social networking site could still be causing problems. However, researchers are quick to point out that it is not the site itself that is to blame. “More important than whether people use these sites is what they do on them," Hargittai said in a press release. "Cultivating relationships, for example, can lead to positive outcomes."

[See Cyber Friendship Helps Teens for more on the benefits of online social networking!]

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