Social Media Leads To Low College GPAs And Substance Abuse
April 20, 2013

Social Media Leads To Low College GPAs And Substance Abuse

Just about all of the research compiled about social media and poor performance in school has previously been done on adolescents, but here’s some research relative to college students, and the results are pretty bleak.

So, texting, tweeting, posting, liking, and Instagram-ing too much can lead to poor grade point averages (GPAs) among college students?

What a shocker.

As found on the amazing redOrbit, researchers from The Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine discovered that extensive use of social media among college students, which is defined as anything from texting to chatting on mobile phones and the obvious status updates on Facebook, could take a serious academic toll.

The results of the study were reported online by the journal Emerging Adulthood, and revealed that, “many students are engaged nearly half the day in some form of media use.”

The study revealed that freshmen women were spending almost 12 whole hours a day texting, using social media, or listening to music and watching videos.

While the resulting lower GPAs don’t come as much of a surprise to me, it is a little bit of an eye-opener that women spend that much time goofing around and socializing. I’d expect their numbers to be a little higher than those of men, but 12 hours? That seems overboard, but the study didn’t mention the men’s numbers and I digress.

“Much of this high use of media was associated with lower GPAs and other negative academic outcomes,” however reading news and listening to music are linked to positive academic performance, so reading stories on redOrbit is a safe online activity. Feel free to spend all of your spare time here.

The Miriam Hospital study suggests that early adults submersed in too much media could get in the way of academic activities such as studying, doing homework, and working on projects. Early adulthood is a time when many young people are living independently for the first time and are free from the watchful eyes of their parents. That freedom can expectedly lead to greater distraction. This research is unique because it is focused specifically on college students, instead of teenagers that are still living under the rules and roofs of 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.”

In the study, the researchers surveyed 483 first-year college women at a northeast university at the beginning of the semester. The students were asked about the use of eleven forms of media including 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 that mobile phones, social networking, movie/TV watching and magazine reading were the most negatively associated with poor grades.

This isn’t to say that the enjoyment of media makes college students dummies, rather, that it inhibits their potential and lends to lower production academically.

“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,” explained Walsh.

The research also suggests that bucking media in the classroom may yield no positive results. It hasn’t worked until now, why keep approaching it in the same way expecting different results?

“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.”

I’ve only had one professor with this thinking, and I’d say it worked well for our class. The exception is those who are just natural born slackers; no amount of reminders, social or otherwise, will motivate some students.

This report is parallel with earlier research 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.”

The moral of the story is, get off the phone, and get to work already.

(Side note: if the present tense verb of using Facebook is Facebooking, and Twitter is tweeting, was I right to say using Instagram is Instagraming? It just sounds awkward. Feel free to comment below if you’ve got a better way.)

Image Credit: Peshkova / Shutterstock

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