Surprising? Meta-analysis doesn’t find a correlation between social media use and school performance

Markus Appel, Ph.D. student Caroline Marker (JMU) and Timo Gnambs from the University of Bamberg have taken a closer look at how the social media use of adolescents correlates with their school grades. Do note correlates as this study didn’t look at causal effects. For the study the researchers identified 59 studies on the correlation between social media use and academic performance. In a next step they analyzed the results of these studies, which comprised almost 30,000 young people worldwide. And the results may surprise you as the researchers couldn’t find a clear correlation between social media use and school performance.

Well, it may surprise some people but actually it doesn’t surprise me that much as I have seen both studies that showed negative and positive effects of social media. It all depends – imho – on how, why and when social media is being used.

And this also what this study shows:

  1. Pupils who use social media intensively to communicate about school-related topics tend to have slightly better grades. The scientists had expected this.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Abstract of the study:

The popularity of social networking sites (SNSs) among adolescents and young adults has raised concerns that the intensity of using these platforms might be associated with lower academic achievement. The empirical findings on this issue, however, are anything but conclusive. Therefore, we present four random-effects meta-analyses including 59 independent samples (total N = 29,337) on the association between patterns of SNS use and grades. The meta-analyses identified small negative effects of ρˆρ^ = − .07, 95% CI [− .12, − .02] for general SNS use and ρˆρ^ = − .10, 95% CI [− .16, − .05] for SNS use related to multitasking. General SNS use was unrelated to the time spent studying for school (ρˆρ^ = − .03, 95% CI [− 0.11, 0.06]) and no support for the time displacement hypothesis could be found in a meta-analytical mediation analysis. SNS use for academic purposes exhibited a small positive association, ρˆρ^ = .08, 95% CI [.02, .14]. Hypotheses with regard to cross-cultural differences were not supported.

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