Facebook causing lower grades? Doubtful...

Facebook causing lower grades? Doubtful...

Summary: How about Facebook related to lower grades? This is a classic case of causation versus correlation.


How about Facebook related to lower grades? This is a classic case of causation versus correlation. Of course, I'm referring to the recent study at Ohio State showing that frequent Facebook users have lower grades than those who keep their noses in their books.

I have one word for this: Duh. The sources of bias in this study make it a poster child for a high school statistics class. Researchers found that students who were frequent users of Facebook tended to have lower GPAs than those who didn't use the social network:

Typically, Facebook users in the study had grade point averages between 3.0 and 3.5, while nonusers had GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0.

So here are the potential biases:

  • The majority of Facebook users in the study were in the physical sciences, rather than the humanities. Have you taken organic chemistry recently? It's bloody hard and you'll probably end up with a lower grade than you would in Sociology 101. Not that there's anything wrong with sociology, but orgo convinced me that I had no business being pre-med in college.
  • A large percentage of non-Facebook users were graduate students. Obviously, by the time you've begun your masters and doctoral work, you're going to be significantly more focused than the average undergrad, for whom frat parties still represent a good time.
  • The researchers hypothesized that the physical science majors spent more time on the Internet in general than their liberal arts counterparts. I can think of 2 or 3 things besides Facebook that they might have been doing online that would have also distracted from their studies.
  • Finally, as CNET blogger, Chris Matyszczyk, points out,

    I have a suspicious and entirely unscientific feeling that all this research may tell us so far is that bookwormy, people-uncomfortable types do well in school tests...So nothing's changed, right?

The researchers did acknowledge the idea of correlation/causation, but the media haven't been as keen to publicize it:

"We can't say that use of Facebook leads to lower grades and less studying, but we did find a relationship there," Aryn Karpinski, co-author of the study and a doctoral student at OSU, said in a statement.

So keep Facebooking, my friends. Better yet, dump Facebook and create a Ning. You communication and creativity skills will serve you well in the workforce, especially those of you majoring in the hard sciences.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Browser, CXO, Collaboration, IT Employment

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • LMAO

    Homework time = Facebook time
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Students certainly have a right to fail.

  • All the social sites are a waste of precious time.

    Seriously, they are nothing but time wasters.
  • RE: Facebook causing lower grades?

    "You communication and creativity skills will serve you well in the workforce, especially those of you majoring in the hard sciences."

    I'll decline to point out the irony in the grammatical error contained in that sentence vis-a-vis it's intended message, and just say that the type of "communication and creativity" skills that apparently develop from frequent use of such social media will hardly serve anyone well in the workforce, if the quality of writing and thinking seen in such media is any indication. As a scientist myself, I can say that social media is about as far removed from the objective world of science as you can get. Social media skills will serve no one well especially in the "hard sciences".

    Carl Rapson
  • Duh! Of course it causes lower grades.

    "The sources of bias in this study make it a poster child for a high school statistics class."

    And there is NO bias on your commentary?

    Everyone has a bias. Anyone who says their opinion is unbiased doesn't speak the truth ... even if they are on CNN.

    There are lots of reasons to avoid websites like that one ... the study addressed just one.
    • What does 'bias' mean?

      If you don't undertstand the meaning of the term 'Statistical Bias' opposed to 'biased attitude' then maybe you need to go on Stats 101?
  • RE: Facebook causing lower grades?

    What evidence is there that this is just correlative? It can't be made correlative just because someone says it is. I suspect that facebook takes away from homework time rather than "recreational" time ... so it might very likely impair student performance.
  • it's all about Balance

    My point of view is to have a balance in life , neither wasting my life commenting on facebook walls, checking new applications and adding more photos nor do nothing except studying and transform to a caveman

    it's about managing our time , priorities , allocate time for studying and other time for socializing .

    This will allow us to focus on what are doing at a given moment, feeling satisfied about ourselves , doing our work right and have time for personal and funny stuff..

  • RE: Facebook causing lower grades?

    It's not Facebook causing problems, it's the constant technological wave that is. There are 5-7 different places you can post blogs to, there are a dozen online games to play, there are thousand upon thousands of websites, forums, and ezines, not to mention groups to participate in.

    I'd say if your child plays World of Warcraft online, that's the biggest problem with your kids' time management problems. WoW, as World of Warcraft is "affectionately" tagged, is as addictive as any drug I've seen. Kids will get up in the middle of the night during the week to play the game. Many don't eat and play the game for hours upon hours....

    We had television to babysit us when we were growing up (I'm 55), but parents give their kids' computer games, and it eats up a lot more time than the television ever did. Most of the time, parents don't even know the kind of perverts and sexual innuendo that goes on in WoW, but I don't think many of the parents even realize what it's like in there because their kids wanted it, they got it and never tried to play it themselves or watched the chats.

    I digress, but at any rate, it's the whole of the computer technology that is causing problems. I think that kids believe that if they play games well, they can actually get a job making games. They don't realize if you play games at the expense of your school work, you aren't going anywhere.

    So, it's not just Facebook, but it's everything having to do with computers, technology, blogs, forums, etc. that are causing their kids' problems. Though I'm as hooked on computers as much as the next person. Set up a schedule for your kids to be online to play games or be on Facebook, or whatever, but make sure they stick to it...