A study carried out at the University of Iowa in the USA has been published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. The website Science Daily reports that a total of 1649 students responded to a questionnaire about their use of Facebook.
The results show that first-year students have problems in regulating their use of this popular website. However, social media use is less of a problem for more experienced students. “The difference lies in the students’ ability to self-regulate their behaviour”, says Professor Reynol Junco, the man behind the survey.
He notes that better multitasking skills can explain why the negative correlations between Facebook use and grades are not found among more experienced students.
Junco is thus encouraging the parents and teachers of primary and lower secondary school pupils to focus on teaching self-regulation as early as possible.
Facebook users read the least
A number of previous surveys have also shown that Facebook use is linked to student performance at school.
However, researcher Petter Bae Brandtzæg at SINTEF says that it’s difficult to be sure of whether the students who perform badly at school are the same as those who use Facebook, or if using Facebook makes people less intelligent.
“We’re struggling to interpret a typical chicken-and-egg situation here. What comes first”, says Brandtzæg, who has an M.Sc. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Media Sciences.
“Interpreting these types of data is a real challenge because we’re measuring correlations and not the causes”, he says. “We should be asking ourselves how these media are used, and not just how much time our respondents spend using them”, says Brandtzæg.
“During my Ph.D. studies, I believe I uncovered an important distinction which previous research into the “effects” and “correlations” linked to social media had to a great extent overlooked”, he says. It’s perfectly possible to use Facebook for things other than superficial nonsense. You can use it to get involved in activism, obtain political information, of for school work. This is why I believe we should instead be looking into the ways in which Facebook is used. Facebook in itself isn’t the problem – the issue is all the nonsense and chatting”, says Brandtzæg to the newspaper VG.