Social Media’s Effect On Learning
Today’s parents are grappling with an issue no previous generation has faced: social media’s place in our lives and
in our children’s lives. Each day this week, at least one post will tackle the topic from a different angle. Read on and, as always, make the decisions best for you and your family.
No matter how we feel about it, social media is embedded deeply into our lives, particularly for younger generations. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a host of smaller or more niche sites have many benefits, allowing people to keep in touch, make new friends, build knowledge, share experiences and debate ideas. But too often, particularly for young users, these benefits are precluded by more mundane activities. Most children are unable to structure the free-for-all of social media on their own, and no matter what methods parents use to monitor their children’s use, it’s difficult to regulate any kind of virtual experience. For this reason, despite its potential, I find the effects of social media on education to be very negative.
Social media inhibits the real-life interactions children need to grow.
Humans are social beings that thrive and grow based on the interactions we have with others. While social media makes possible an untold number of new interactions, these relationships remain very self-centered. Children can choose when to log in and log off, choose when and how they interact with their ‘friends’ and ‘followers.’ They learn to interact with others when it is convenient to them; this doesn’t reflect the messiness of real life, where children need to build listening skills, empathy, compassion, and resilience—traits that are built by facing challenges, and not around convenience.
Social media inhibits the development of language and writing skills.
Imo if ur kid w/b lyk dis – more often than he or she writes like this – language and writing skills will degrade. For better or worse, the Indian education system is mark-oriented, and as misspelled abbreviations from the social media world seep into schoolwork, grades will decline. And while shortened lingo may make communicating quicker and more convenient, it also inhibits expression. Expression is a learned skill, and the more dexterous we are with words, the more able we are to develop and express our own ideas and grasp the ideas of others. Shortcuts only engender shortcuts.
Social media inhibits personal development.
Social media sites are addictive; I’ve felt it myself. It plays on the core human need for acceptance, which can be very powerful. When we post photos, part of the joy is in seeing the number of likes tally upward. It can be a powerful self-esteem boost, which in moderation, can be helpful to children who feel ostracized in real life. But others’ carefully curated newsfeeds can give children (and adults) a false sense of what life is like. Suddenly, if three friends decide not to study for a test in order to attend a concert, that validates the choice to be unprepared in school in favor of more pleasurable pursuits. Self-regulation and self-discipline erode, and procrastination becomes the norm.
Social media inhibits memory and original thinking.
Social media, the foundational pillars of which are ease and convenience, numbs children’s minds. When you can refer to a visual archive of your conversations and activities and when you receive reminders of peoples’ birthdays, why bother to remember either? Memory is like a muscle, built with exercise. When children don’t have practice retaining personal information and memories, it’s a short leap to being unable to retain essential knowledge and principles. The same convenience of social media also stifles original thinking, producing a generation of children that have what I call “copy + paste syndrome.” Children turn to social media for information because it is quick and easy; but they lack the critical skills to determine what are legitimate sources of information. I have seen biology reports that include a copy + paste of a friend’s Facebook post about a pet snake.
For better or worse, social media is here to stay.
To avoid the negative effects I touched on above, I’d advise parents to monitor their children’s digital diets as closely as they check tiffin boxes. The preteen and teen years are when social media often plays a large role in children’s life. I’d say – let it be an earned habit. Set expectations for your child to demonstrate responsibility and maturity in the home, school, or social settings before being allowed to participate in this online world. Then set specific times for use and enforce them. Social media is a vibrant, yet unstructured world that we must structure for our children, if they are to benefit and not be harmed.
However, social media can benefit education in some ways.
Social media can be a powerful tool in the hands of teachers and education professionals. These sites allow educators to network, stay updated on new ideas and methods, share experiences and develop professionally. In the hands of trained adults, who can filter out valuable information and contextualize the other noise, social media can improve our schools, strengthen and support our teachers, and result in a better education for our kids.