Facebook Impact on Student Grades Raises New Questions for Business

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Print this article Print

An Ohio State University study links Facebook use to lower grades. The study comes as businesses worry about the impact of social networking tools on worker productivity, integrity of their intellectual property and data security. Security vendors such as Websense, Fortinet and Trend Micro release new tools to combat embedded threats in social networks.

As enterprises grapple with whether social networking creates security risks and productivity losses, a new study from the Ohio State University suggests there is a link between the use of Facebook and lower grades among college students.

According to the survey of 219 students, those who said they use Facebook have grade point averages between 3.0 and 3.5 and study 1 to 5 hours per week. Conversely, non-Facebook users have GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0, and study 11 hours or more per week.

The study found that 79 percent of Facebook users believe that it has no impact on their academic performance.

"It cannot be stated [that] Facebook use causes a student to study less," says Aryn Karpinski, the graduate student who conducted the research. "I'm just saying that they're related somehow, and we need to look into it further."

The report comes at a time when businesses of all sizes are grappling with the impact of social networking on data security, integrity of intellectual property, corporate reputation and individual worker productivity.

At a conference in New York last year, Merck Chief Information Officer J. Chris Scalet recounted exposure to the changing paradigm shift in worker and student behaviors in social networking when his daughter was home from college one weekend. He told the story of finding his daughter in his home office, iPod blaring, cellphone buzzing with text message, Facebook page open and, off to the side, an open textbook. And, he said, she called that studying.

"It dawned on me that in two and a half years my daughter is going to be in the work force," says Scalet, who is also senior vice president of global services at pharmaceutical giant Merck. "Her ability and what she’s going to look for in tools and how she’s going to work in the future are going to be very different from today. She’s going to expect these [collaboration] tools—what we have today and what we’re going to have in the future."

When Scalet was asked how his daughter did on the test, Steve Papermaster, the chief executive of nGenera and host of the event, interjected and questioned the relevancy of grades and testing in the social networking generation. "Perhaps we’re not testing them right or the tests aren’t right for them," he said.

Until recently, social networking through sites such as Facebook and MySpace was seen as a pursuit of young people. Nowadays, social networking is gaining acceptance among all demographics. A recent report stated that the growth of microblogging site Twitter is being fueled by middle-aged and seasoned workers.

Security threats associated with social networks loom large for businesses, as hackers and malware writers are planting Trojans, worms and malicious code in media-rich social networking Web pages for distribution to user PCs.

Recently, security companies Fortinet, Trend Micro and Websense released new security products that scan sections of Web pages and perform deep inspection of HTML data streams for malicious content, blocking risky code while providing users with access to social networking functionality.

"Customers are looking to deploy Web security solutions inline because they need to scan and classify the content in real time, as it comes over the wire," says David Meizlik, director of product marketing for Web and data security at Websense. "The end goal is to allow access to sites and the good content they contain, but block access to what bad or inappropriate content also exists on that page, without blocking the entire page."

Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.