A high use of media can negatively affect academic performance and even lead to a lack of sleep and substance abuse, according to an American study.

Research published in the Emerging Adulthood journal reports that women in their first year of an undergraduate degree were spending on average 12 hours a day using media, with high mobile phone usage and film watching having the most detrimental impact on grades.

The average use of media was between 11.8 and 12.1 hours a day, resulting from spending around 2 hours each on texting, listening to music and browsing the internet. Of all the types of media covered, only two forms – listening to music and reading newspapers – were seen to increase grades.

Magazines are not so beneficial, with students who spent a lot of time reading these and using social media failing to work to deadlines and attend classes, whilst the combination of magazines and watching television meant that students reported a lower confidence in their academic ability.

The research, carried out at an unnamed American north-eastern university mapped student grades over two terms to compare their expected and actual results. They also questioned 483 women over the amount of time spent every day using 11 different types of media.

The lead author, Dr Jennifer L. Walsh of The Miriam Hospital’s Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine claimed that this was one of the first times the impact of media on college age students had been examined, and suggests that academics embrace the trends she has uncovered. Her report said, “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.”

Some Oxford students have come to their own conclusions about the effects of social media. Jonathan Goddard, a second year PPEist at Brasenose, took extreme measures after his Prelims result to lower his use of media. “I decided that it was Facebook’s fault. Taking the drastic steps required, I am utilizing the ancient tools of pencil and paper and locking up my laptop and phone for long periods at a time.”

Kari Jackson, a fourth year German and Classics finalist at St John’s agrees that social media can have detrimental effects on academic work, but argues that people can change their habits. She said, “I’m definitely guilty of interrupting my studies with texting and Facebooking, but with the pressure of exams ratcheting up now, I am tending to be more disciplined about it!”

Furthermore, Jackson agrees with the study’s recommendation that academics embrace their students’ reliance on media. Having taught English during her year abroad in Germany, she explains that the internet was used as a vital tool in the classroom.

“I successfully used [social media] to have discussions about globalisation and encouraged pupils to browse through English newspapers online and find interesting pictures of current events.”

Jonathan Goddard believes he too is an example of how students can avoid the negative effects of media. “After a few weeks fighting the withdrawal symptoms, my productivity has increased. There are fewer cat memes in my life now, but that high price is one worth paying as the time I save is well spent napping in libraries around Oxford.”