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The relationship between facebook usage and academic performance

A recent study at Ohio state University by Aryn Karpinski and Adam Duberstein (Ohio Dominican University) found that facebook usage was associated with lower GPAs, and less time studying. Those who use facebook tended to have lower GPAs than those who did not, and it appears from the slew of articles written about it, that within the group that used facebook that more usage was associated with lower GPAs and less time studying. This story is interesting for three reasons.

• First, it raises the question about the potential impact of facebook upon students time, and ultimately their academic performance. • Second, it illustrates the age old problem of correlation vs. causation. The inclination is to assume that facebook usage is causing lower academic performance because students are wasting valuable time. But of course, this could also be that lower performing students have always found ways to waste time, and this just happens to be the best measure of that in todays social-networked world. Simply, we don’t know yet. • Yet, the media is quick to make assumptions, and academics should be careful in how they talk to the media. Ms. Karpinski points out in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, that she never argued that there was evidence for causation. Yet, it’s clear from some of the quotes that it sometimes becomes easier to lead the media there (e.g., “There’s a disconnect between students’ claim that Facebook use doesn’t impact their studies, and our finding showing they had lower grades and spent less time studying.”)

Dr. Matthew J Koehler


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