How Facebook Hurts Grades

Jan 24, 2015

The connections seems simple: the more time you're on Facebook, the more your grades suffer. 

But Rey Junco, associate Professor of Education at Iowa State University, says it's more complicated than that.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Junco found that while all Facebook use hurt freshman grades, only 'multitasking' with Facebook hurt sophomores and juniors. 

"Humans just can't do it. We can't run two processes at the same time. We can't attend to a stimulus and learn new material. In the research, it's called a cognitive bottleneck."

Which made it surprising that Facebook use, even when done simultaneously with studying, didn't seem to affect seniors' grades at all.

"That just adds a little bit more to some of these discrepant research findings we've seen," Junco says. "Some of my work has shown that students who Facebook during class have lower GPAs, okay, no surprise there. But if they're emailing during class or if they're searching for content that's not related to the class, those two things don't have an effect on GPA and you'd think they would based on the cognitive science research."

Junco theorizes that seniors have better self-regulation skills, learned over their time in college, which allow them to better focus their energies. 

In this News Buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Junco about social media and cognitive function.