Brain power

Does social media harm the academic performance of students?

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

The impact of social media on productivity has been a well trodden path for researchers over the years. A German team from Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) recently set out to discover whether students who regularly use Facebook, Instagram et al do worse academically.

The study1 examined how teenage students were using social media to test whether there was any correlation between it and their grades in school.

“There are several contradictory single studies on this subject and this has made it difficult previously to properly assess all results,” they explain.

Some of these report negative impacts of social media, whilst others describe a more positive impact (and of course, some find no connection at all).

To the test

To try and arrive at a definitive answer, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis of nearly 60 studies on the topic. Collectively, these studies analyzed around 30,000 youngsters from around the world.

The analysis came to four main conclusions:

  1. Pupils who use social media intensively to communicate about school-related topics tend to have slightly better grades. The scientists had expected this.
  1. Pupils who use Instagram and the likes 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Ultimately however, the definitive answer the team were looking for eluded them as both directions of cause and effect were possible, albeit neither was particularly pronounced.

“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,” the team conclude. “The more open-minded parents are with respect to their children’s online activities, the better they will be able to communicate with them.”

Article source: Does Social Media Harm the Academic Performance of Students?

Header image source: Social Media apps by Jason Howie is licenced by CC BY 2.0.


  1. Marker, C., Gnambs, T., & Appel, M. (2009). Active on Facebook and Failing at School? Meta-Analytic Findings on the Relationship Between Online Social Networking Activities and Academic Achievement.
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Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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