Online social networks have helped us reunite with old friends, connect with likeminded folks a world apart and broadcast our thoughts at the click of a mouse. But is Facebook distracting our youth to the point that their grades and critical thinking skills suffer?
Half of 500 teachers polled by UK-based school trips provider JCA seem to think so.
In fact,the report found that students with the lowest grades just so happen to be the ones who spend the most time on Facebook and similar social networks. Teachers say obsession over social networking hurts attention spans and concentration while consuming time otherwise spent doing homework.
A JCA spokeswoman suggests a lack of “screen-free” social interaction may be the culprit. However it’s important to point out that JCA makes its money by promoting real-world interactions in the form of school field trips.
That doesn’t mean the report is flawed.
But is there a causal link? In other words, are poor-performing students just that much more likely to zone out on their status updates just like others might watch too much T.V.?
Spending too much time doing anything tends to hurt one’s ability to complete other tasks, whether it’s a six-hour Facebook session or six hours spent in the garden.
So what is unique about social networking with respect to its arguably negative impact on school performance?
Educational psychologist Kairen Cullen told reporters it’s a “complex” subject but said she believes overuse of social networks can arrest children’s development:
”The time invested in social media versus real life interpersonal interaction can detract from that available for real human contact and contribute to delayed and/or distorted social and emotional development.”
Another concern among teachers in the study is the use of internet-age abbreviations such as “LOL” or “IMHO” in homework assignments. But who knows, maybe it’s the older generations who will have to catch up with the changing nature of language.
AllFacebook explored the issue of Facebook’s effect on academic performance in April 2009. A survey conducted at Ohio State University found similar results, concluding that heavy Facebook users tended to have lower grades.
But the Ohio State survey also was unable to prove causation.
So it comes back to this central, still-unanswered question: What came first, social networking or underpeforming students who have no shortage of time-wasting activities?
Any heavy Facebook users out there who still manage to maintain solid grades in school?