The link between social media use, school connectedness, and academic performance among adolescents

What you need to know

Researchers explored the relationship between social media use, school connectedness, and academic performance among middle and high school students in Ontario, Canada. They found that social media use of more than two hours a day negatively affected school connectedness and academic performance among middle and high school students.

 

This Research Snapshot looks at the article, "Social Media Use, School Connectedness, and Academic Performance Among Adolescents” published the Journal of Primary Prevention in 2019. Read it below or download the PDF

Research Snapshots are brief, clear language summaries of research articles, presented in a user-friendly format.

What is this research about? 

Social media is now ever present in the daily lives of adolescents. But there are increasing concerns about potential harms associated with its use, based on some research that shows it is linked to mental health problems, such as depressive symptoms and suicidal behaviours. While social media allows people to stay connected, some studies suggest it can also act as a barrier to human interaction.

School connectedness, which measures how much students feel connected to their school, is an important factor for both adolescent health and learning.  Research shows that school connectedness increases learning and prevents behaviours such as bullying and suicide among adolescents.

Researchers explored the relationship between the use of social media and school connectedness and academic performance among middle and high school students. They also tested whether age, gender and school type (such as middle school vs. high school) had any effects on these relationships.

What did the researchers do?

Researchers analyzed data from the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey. This survey looks at substance use, mental and physical health, gambling, and other risky behaviours among Ontario students in grade 7 through 12.

Students were asked to report their daily use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Use was categorized as either moderate (two hours or less daily) or heavy (more than 2 hours daily).

The researchers measured school connectedness based on students’ agreement with the following three statements: “I feel close to people at this school,” “I feel like I am part of this school,” and “I feel safe in my school.”

Finally, academic performance was measured based on student’s average grades. Factors such student’s age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status (income, education), and substance use was analyzed. A total of 10,076 students in grades 7 through 12 were included in the study.

What did the researchers find?

The researchers found significant differences:

  • Moderate use was linked with higher levels of school connectedness in high school students. Heavy use was associated with less school connectedness in middle school students and with academic performance in both middle and high school students
  • The relationship between social media use and school connectedness in high school students significantly was different depending on age. Among the youngest group of high school students, there was no relationship between school connectedness and social media use.
  • Older students who reported moderate use had higher levels of school connectedness than those who reported heavy use.
  • There were no gender difference in terms of a link between the use of social media and school connectedness.


The findings show that adolescents who used social media for no more than two hours per day were more connected to their schools and had better academic performance.

Limitations and next steps

Causality among social media use, school connectedness, and academic performance should not be inferred given the cross-sectional nature of the data. Since the data was self-reported, there is the possibility of bias. For example, students may not have accurately recalled their social media use. Another limitation is that the researchers used an average use of social media, which may not reflect true use.

The researchers also didn’t look at the role of sleep duration, which other studies have shown might influence social media use and academic performance in students. The next steps would be to explore this relationship further.

How can you use this research?

The findings from this study can be useful to educators, school health professionals, and parents looking to increase awareness of the potential risks associated with heavy use of social media.

About the researchers

Hugues Sampasa -Kanyinga,1,2 Jean-Philippe Chaput,2,3 Hayley A. Hamilton4,5

  1. School of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Ottawa, 600 Peter Morand Cr, Room 308C, Ottawa, ON K1H 8M5, Canada
  2. Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, Ottawa, ON, Canada
  3. Department of Pediatrics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada
  4. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, ON, Canada
  5. Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

Keywords 

Social media, School connectedness, Academic performance, Adolescents, Canadian

This Research Snapshot is based on the article, “Social Media Use, School Connectedness, and Academic Performance Among Adolescents” published the Journal of Primary Prevention in 2019. This summary was written by Maryan Warsame. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10935-019-00543-6