Despite widespread concern among parents and educators, using social media may not adversely impact teens’ academic performance, according to a new study in Educational Psychology Review.
“Concerns regarding the allegedly disastrous consequences of social networking sites on school performance are unfounded,” said Professor Markus Appel, a psychologist who holds the Chair of Media Communication at Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany.
Appel, doctoral student Caroline Marker, and Dr. Timo Gnambs from the University of Bamberg investigated how the social media use of adolescents correlates with their school grades.
“There are several contradictory single studies on this subject and this has made it difficult previously to properly assess all results,” Marker said. Some studies report negative impacts of Snapchat & Co., others describe a positive influence or do not find any relationship at all.
The researchers conducted meta-analyses from relevant databases of scientific publications, identifying 59 studies that tackled the correlation between social media use and academic performance. They then analyzed the combined results of the studies, which accounted for almost 30,000 young people worldwide.
The authors found:
- pupils who use social media intensively to communicate about school-related topics tend to have slightly better grades — the scientists had expected this;
- pupils who use Instagram and the like a lot while studying or doing their homework tend to perform slightly worse than other students — this form of multi-tasking thus seems to be rather distracting;
- students who log into social networking sites very frequently, regularly post messages and photos and spend a lot of time there have slightly lower grades — this negative effect is, however, very small;
- pupils who are particularly active on social media do not spend less time studying, so there is no scientifically verified proof of social media stealing valuable time for schoolwork from pupils.
Still, the investigation is far from over as critical questions remain. Does the intensive use of social media cause slightly poorer performance at school? Or do worse performing students tend to lose themselves in Facebook or other platforms?
“We cannot answer these questions. Both directions of cause and effect are possible, but they are not very pronounced,” Appel said.
Given the current state of research, then, using social media does not seem to have a significant adverse impact on school grades.
“Nevertheless, parents should take an interest in what their kids are doing on social media, know the social networks and be willing to understand the usage patterns,” said Appel.
“The more open-minded parents are with respect to their children’s online activities, the better they will be able to communicate with them.”
Source: University of Wuerzburg