Social Networking and School Performance

We hope that you enjoyed the holidays and time off from school and work.  School vacations are a great opportunity to spend quality time together as a family.  A time to reconnect and catch up from the busy lives we lead.  With the demands of work, school, after school activities and everyday life, it’s rare that parents and children get to spend extended time together anymore.  But as great as it is, this time can also be an eye opening experience into the world of our children.  With extended time together, many parents saw firsthand the huge influence social media has on our children and the obsession that has become the norm.  Parents witnessed children who could not function without texting, Facebook , Instagram and Twitter (to name a few), in constant communication with their “friends”.  And though it seems to be okay to be “plugged in” during time off from school….what happens when students return to class and greater demands of time are being placed on them?  Is this ongoing distraction compromising our children’s school performance?
So much has been written about the emotional impact, like cyber-bullying, of social networking, but what about academic outcomes?  Does actively participating in social media impact academic performance?  Many parents express concern that the amount of time their children are spending online is affecting school performance. They say that even while studying online, their children have numerous social media sites open and are constantly checking in, when they should be focusing their attention on their homework assignments.  Teachers report that students are finding it harder to concentrate in class and seem distracted.  Time that should be spent studying is being spent on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Life experiences and face to face interactions are decreasing, and constant texting and tweeting has become a way of modern communication; often using networking chat in place of proper English. 
A study by The National Journal website reports that teachers are concerned that the amount and types of electronic media that children interact with at home may be harming their performance in the classroom.  A study at Ohio State found that Facebook users had GPA’s between 3.0 and 3.5 while non-users had GPA’s between 3.5 and 4.0.  Another study done by Common Sense Media, a think tank focused on children’s media use, also found that students’ media use hurts their attention span in school, harms their ability to interact face to face, and has a negative impact on their writing skills.  These findings are concerning, especially with the increasing demands on students today. 
There are of course some benefits of social networking sites for students, like a great communication tool to discuss assignments and projects, but it takes a conscious effort to develop efficient time management skills when it comes to separating study time and the use of social networking.   The extensive use of technology is only going to increase in the coming years, so the best we can do is to guide our children to make good media choices and help them find balance in their day between social media and other activities.  We all need to be aware and get involved, so that our children don’t become too distracted to keep up with the demands of school.  It can also be a wake-up call for parents to model responsible behavior when using social media and lessen our time “plugged in”.  If  we are encouraging homework time to be just that, and separate from social networking time, then we need to lead by example. 
I believe a round of applause goes to all the summer camps that do not allow the use of cell phones or other connections to social media (except emails that are allowed to be received from home).  Though summer camp is a time away from school work, it is still good to have a breather from all the pressures and constant distractions of social media.  Thank goodness for having face to face interactions where you see a friend’s facial expressions… sitting down to meals together… participating in activities together… having heart to heart talks during rest hour…singing songs around the camp fire… and truly connecting with the people in our lives.  Hopefully campers can bring back home with them the pleasure of focusing on something without distractions and apply it to the school year.