Want to raise your GPA? Quit Facebook

In a study, 34 percent of students said they used Facebook while studying.

Combining studying with Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging proves a bad mix for college students, while a healthy dose of old-fashioned eMail usage might help boost grade point averages, according to the latest research in the debate surrounding social media in higher education.

Posted Sept. 19 on the blog of social media researcher Reynol Junco, the study charged that scanning Facebook news feeds and sending texts while studying were “negatively related to overall GPA,” echoing findings from social media research presented in the past two years.

Using eMail while studying was an entirely different story.

Incorporating eMail into schoolwork had a positive impact on student grades, likely because students use eMail to communicate with professors and teaching assistants, according to the study, “A Decade of Distractions: How Multitasking Affects Student Outcomes.”

In other words, students use eMail for academic purposes, while social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are social web activities usually unrelated to homework or studying.

Fifty-two percent of study respondents said they send and receive texts while doing schoolwork, and 34 percent said they used Facebook while studying.

About one-fifth of students said they used eMail while studying. Eighteen percent said they search the web for items unrelated to their studies.

Taking time to send texts, scroll through Twitter feeds, and check on the latest Facebook updates–all while preparing for tests and quizzes–led to an “[overload] of their ability to process information and to engage in deeper learning.”

“Compared to 10 years ago, internet users are presented with more data than ever,” Junco and coauthor Shelia Cotten wrote in the study. “Unfortunately, humans are unable to take in and process all of this information and turn to engaging in multitasking as an information management strategy.”

Junco is a faculty member at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, and Cotten is an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

They are scheduled to present their social media research findings this week at the Oxford Internet Institute’s Decade in Internet Time Symposium.

Junco said it could be a tough task for college students to wean themselves off of social media sites and text messaging–even during study sessions–since the information and communication technologies (ICTs) have become an integral part of academic and social life on campus.

“Their use of these technologies is a normal part of their everyday life,” the researchers wrote. “They have never known a time when it was not normal to use ICTs to perform daily activities, such as communicating, scheduling, coordinating, and finding information. They use ICTs at extremely high rates and also have to juggle classes, homework, work, and recreational activities.”

Junco found that students’ frequent Facebook checks adds up: 92 percent of student respondents used Facebook, and the average Facebook user spent more than an hour and 40 minutes on the site daily.

Junco said that like previous attempts to understand how extensive social media use affects college students’ GPAs, the latest research needs to be expanded before campus officials draw definitive conclusions.

“There is no way that this research settles the question about social media’s impact on student grades,” he said. “What this research shows us is that we need more studies.”

The debate over the distraction of social media on college campuses heated up last April when an infographic, “Is Social Media Ruining Students?” published by OnlineEducation.net, distilled reams of social media research and lists the pros and cons of how social sites are used on campuses.

Facebook and studying can be an academically toxic combination, lowering grades by up to 20 percent, according to the infographic.

The infographic also shows that students who abstain from Facebook–only 4 percent of U.S. college students can claim this–work three times more per week than their counterparts on the popular site.

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