Social Networking and GPAs

Robert Price, Suzanne Ward, Robert Wolff

Application Project: Part 1

Math 216


Social Networking and GPA

Most people hold the belief that social networking is having an overall negative effect on students’ scholastic success. Many academic researchers and online articles support this point of view, as Facebook, Twitter, and other network sites have been deemed wastes of time which are used at the expense of studying. Although most online articles suggest that time on social networking sites have a negative impact on a student’s GPA, while other researchers suggest that the so-called negative impact is non-existent. Our goal will be to determine the relationship between social networking use and students’ GPAs among Vanderbilt students.

A recent article in The Telegraph claims that educators hold social networking websites responsible for students’ bad performances in classes (Bloxham, 2010). This article cites a study of 500 teachers where the overwhelming majority responded that the influence of social media websites on their students has negatively affected their performance in schools for various reasons. The teachers believe that students have a tendency to hurriedly finish homework in order to communicate with people online, and may even be communicating online in the classroom during class time. Additionally, teachers note that students are less able to concentrate in class due to their obsession with social media usage. Although this study was based purely on the observations of teachers, many other studies have shown that this correlation is real. One documented in The Daily Mail stated that the average GPA of those who frequently use facebook is 3.06, whereas the average GPA of those who don’t use Facebook very much is 3.82 (Choney, 2010).

In contrast, another study found online documented research conducted by the University of New Hampshire Whittemore School of Business and Economics. This study of 1,127 students determined that there was no correlation between online social networking usage and grades (Capano). The researchers split up the grades of students into one of two categories, high grade or low-grade. Coupled with this division, social networking usage was split into either a heavy usage or light usage category. Of the heavy users, 65% were placed into the high grades category while 63% of the light users were placed into the high grades category. The results of this study are contrary to popular belief, and led us to wonder what kind of results could be seen at Vanderbilt.

Our group will collect data from Vanderbilt students by sending an anonymous survey to the class along with our fraternity and sorority listservs.  We want to conduct the survey solely via email and not through social media sites so that our data is not skewed towards people who use these sites.  We will assume that the responders will represent a random sample of Vanderbilt students, but include a few qualifying questions on the survey to make sure that our data is not weighted too heavily toward a particular college.  The survey will also include questions regarding the student’s use of social media websites as well as their GPA.  While only surveying the class would most likely give us a good random sample of engineers, we hope that surveying more students will allow us to more confidently analyze any relationships that appear in the data.  The following social media websites will be included: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and Other.

After the data has been collected, we will analyze correlations between social media use and GPA of Vanderbilt Students.  As of now, we want to look for a relationship between time spent using social media and GPA as well as a relationship between number of sites used and GPA.   The null hypotheses are that time spent and number of accounts have no effect on a student’s grade point average.  The alternate hypotheses are that they do have an effect.  We will also use linear regression to look for relationships between GPA and time spent, or GPA and the number of accounts.  To add to our study, we will also compute various confidence intervals to determine the likelihood that social networking is having a negative impact on grades. From the confidence intervals, we will be able to analyze the likelihood of both Type 1 and Type 2 errors.


Bloxham, A. (2010, November 18). Social networking: teachers blame Facebook and Twitter for pupils’ poor grades. The Telegraph. Retrieved March 25, 2012, from

Capano, N. Social Networking Usage and Grades Among College Students. University of New Hampshire, Whittemore School of Business & Economics. Retrieved March 25, 2012, from

Choney, S. (2010, September 7). Facebook use can lower grades by 20 percent, study says. MSNBC. Retrieved March 25, 2012, from

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