Using Facebook can lower exam results by up to 20% – Three quarters of the Facebook users didn’t think the site affected their academic performance.
It is what parents of teenagers who ‘revise’ in front of the computer have long feared.
Students who use Facebook while they study get significantly lower grades than those who do not, according to psychologists.
A study has found that the exam results of those who used the social networking site while working, even if it was on in the background, were 20 per cent lower than non-users.
Researchers say the findings undermine the theory that young people’s brains are better at multitasking on digital gadgets.
Study author Professor Paul Kirschner said: ‘The problem is that most people have Facebook or other social networking sites, their emails and maybe instant messaging constantly running in the background while they are carrying out other tasks.
‘Our study, and other previous work, suggests that while people may think constant task-switching allows them to get more done in less time, the reality is it extends the amount of time needed to carry out tasks and leads to more mistakes.’
His team studied 219 students aged between 19 and 54 at an American university.
The Facebook users among them had a typical grade point average – a score from zero up to four – of 3.06. Non-users had an average GPA of 3.82.
But most of the remaining quarter admitted it had a harmful effect, with many saying it made them put off their work.
Professor Kirschner said that he expected to see similar results in younger pupils.
He also said he was not ‘demonising’ Facebook and pointed to the distracting nature of all social networking.
‘We should resist the fashionable views of educational gurus that children can multi-task, and that we should adapt our education systems accordingly to keep up with the times,’ he said.
The study by the psychologist from the Open University in the Netherlands will be published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour.
It will compound fears over the superficial approach that experts say is encouraged by an increasingly distracting online world that promotes multi-tasking.
In the influential book The Shallows, Nicholas Carr argues the internet has given rise to ‘cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking and superficial learning’.