Facebook a Waste of Time? Depends on How Students Use it
Students spend a great amount of time using social network sites, such as Facebook. But is using Facebook a waste of time for students? Time they could better spent doing schoolwork? According to a study in Computers and Education, it matters a lot how students use Facebook.
- The relation between Facebook use and students’ school engagement depends on their Facebook activities.
- Students who use Facebook for communicative activities (e.g., leaving comments, creating/RSVPing on events, and viewing photos) are more engaged in both academic and extra-curricular activities, while students who use Facebook for non-communicative activities (e.g., playing games, checking up on friends, or posting photos) are less engaged.
- Education professionals should know that students' Facebook use is not by definition a 'bad' thing; communicative Facebook activities may even be beneficial for students’ school engagement.
Is Facebook use related to students’ academic and extra-curricular engagement?
5,414 college students, between the ages of 17 and 61 (mean age: 22 years); 64% women; primarily European-American.
Students filled out an online survey about their engagement in academic and extra-curricular activities (e.g., campus organizations, student government, fraternity or sorority, and sports), time spent on Facebook, and frequency of conducting various activities on Facebook (e.g., viewing photos, commenting on pictures, posting pictures, and playing games).
Facts and findings
- Facebook use was positively as well as a negatively related to students’ engagement in academic and extra-curricular activities.
- In particular, students who used Facebook for communicative activities (e.g., leaving comments, creating/RSVPing on events, and viewing photos) were more engaged in both academic and extra-curricular activities.
- Students who used Facebook for non-communicative activities (e.g., playing games, checking up on friends, or posting photos) were less engaged.
- Students’ time spent on Facebook was not related to their time spent studying.
- Critical note: This study does not allow for any conclusions about cause (using Facebook) and effect (students’ engagement). The results only show that some types of Facebook activities are associated with students’ engagement and cannot say anything about what causes what.