Miriam Hospital researchers say college women spend a significant
amount of time using media during their freshmen year, which can lead to
The widespread use of media among college students - from texting to
chatting on cell phones to posting status updates on Facebook - may be
taking an academic toll, say researchers with The Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine.
According to a new study, freshmen women spend nearly half their day -
12 hours - engaged in some form of media use, particularly texting,
music, the Internet and social networking. Researchers found media use,
in general, was associated with lower grade point averages (GPAs) and
other negative academic outcomes. However, there were two exceptions:
newspaper reading and listening to music were actually linked to a
positive academic performance.
The findings, reported online by the journal Emerging
Adulthood, offer some new insight into media use in early
adulthood, a time when many young people are living independently for
the first time and have significant freedom from parental monitoring.
research on media use and academics has focused on adolescents, rather
than new college students, or has only examined a few forms of media. So
we were curious about the impact of a wider range of media, including
activities like social networking and texting that have only become
popular in recent years," said lead author Jennifer L. Walsh, PhD, of
The Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine.
"We also wanted to know how media use related to later school
performance, since there aren't many longitudinal studies looking at
media use and academics."
Walsh and colleagues surveyed 483 first-year college women at a
northeast university at the start of their freshmen year. Researchers
asked students about their use of 11 forms of media (television, movies,
music, surfing the Internet, social networking, talking on a cell phone,
texting, magazines, newspapers, non-school-related books and video
games) on the average weekday and weekend day during the previous week.
In January and June, participants reported their GPAs for the fall and
spring semester, and they also completed surveys about academic
confidence, behaviors and problems.
The study yielded some interesting findings, Walsh said. In addition to
data suggesting that college women use nearly 12 hours of media per day,
researchers found that cell phones, social networking, movie/television
viewing and magazine reading were most negatively associated with later
academic outcomes, after accounting for their fall academic performance.
But exactly how are media use and academic performance linked? "We found
women who spend more time using some forms of media report fewer
academic behaviors, such as completing homework and attending class,
lower academic confidence and more problems affecting their school work,
like lack of sleep and substance use," said Walsh, adding that the study
was one of the first to explore mechanisms of media effects on academic
Researchers also believe the findings demonstrate the central role of
social media in the lives of college students, and suggest these forms
of media are used more on campus than off.
"Given the popularity of social networking and mobile technology, it
seems unlikely that educators will be able to reduce students' use of
these media forms," said Walsh. "Instead, professors might aim to
integrate social media into their classrooms to remind students of
assignments, refer them to resources and connect them with their
Academic counselors might also consider assessing college students'
media use and encouraging them to take breaks from media, particularly
while in class, studying or completing assignments, the researchers also
Research reported in this publication was supported by the National
Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism under award number
R21-AA018257. Study co-authors were Michael P. Carey, PhD, director of
The Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine;
Robyn L. Fielder, MS, also of The Miriam Hospital's Centers for
Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, and Kate B. Carey, professor of
behavioral and social sciences at Brown University.
The principal affiliation of Jennifer Walsh, PhD, is The Miriam
Hospital (a member hospital of the Lifespan health system in Rhode
Island). Walsh, Fielder, and Carey are also affiliated with The Warren
Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
Editor's Note: The study, "Female College Students' Media Use and
Academic Outcomes: Result From a Longitudinal Cohort Study," was
published online by Emerging Adulthood on March 26, 2013.