Ever since its inception, the Internet has become an intricate part of life where persons depend on its access for daily activities such as shopping, social networking, education, banking, home security and other related activities. Among these, social networking, which seems to be the major attraction of the Internet, can be seen as a blessing and curse. Notably in education, social networking is seen as a positive indicator of advancement in education and its practices. However, we cannot deny the negative influences that can accompany it, which seems be a distracter for many students today.
Students frequently familiarize themselves with computers as they navigate these social networks. They gain valuable skills on an instrument that has become indispensable in the world they reside as students and the one, which they will enter upon completion of their studies. Also, it encourages networking with a variety of people, which can be viewed as a necessary skill in the business environment. This is also the case for teachers and administrators. With the existence of social blogs, Twitter and Facebook, teachers are able to share and record through various mediums, methods of instruction as well as teaching theories and practices in real-time. Furthermore, many are able to expand on techniques for learning and also interact with students on a consistent basis outside of the classroom.
On the contrary, the rise in social media and advancements in other interactive communicative technologies have produced negative impacts in and outside of the classroom. While social media can be seen as a positive tool for education, this tool has the potential to hinder student performance, social growth, and communication skills. Similarly, it can affect a teacher’s overall efficiency in several ways. To what do we owe a decline in academic performance as a result of its impact? What are the social ramifications of social media? What factors are directly responsible for the inability to educate students effectively? How are teachers affected by social media both in and out of the classroom?
For most, access to the Internet for educational purposes would be seen as a great resource for information; however, for students, the Internet poses many problematic factors in academic performance. In general, children who spend more time online find it harder to concentrate resulting in shorter attention spans. Students who rely solely on social media for information rather than researching other resources are likely to experience difficulty focusing on learning and information retention. It significantly affects study habits as students are attempting to multitask and end up becoming easily distracted because they are too busy tweeting and/or posting messages to Facebook in lieu of completing assignments.
Advancements in and excessive access to technology are direct factors on how social media has affected the student in and out of the classroom. Today, students spend most of their time on these networks via mobile devices. Some schools prohibit the use of these devices however; many of them sneak them into school. They use these devices to record videos; take photos of themselves and others, search the Internet, tweet and log on to Facebook, thus making it difficult to concentrate during instruction time. These activities also seek to inhibit effective instruction. In addition to this many of these activities have led to many problems in the school and community for example, fights, harassment, law suits etc. Excessive, unproductive time spent on social networks can therefore be very unhealthy, thus having a negative effect on teens and children. We can then argue that teaching/learning, is in direct competition with Social Media, when they should be partners in educating students.
The use of social networks has also significantly decreased the use of proper grammar and syntax in writing. Students have found it difficult to differentiate between the proper use of language as a result of abbreviated writing and shortened forms of word formulation. Many slang terms have become common in written class assignments. These terms IDK (I don’t know), SMH (shaking my head), BTW (by the way), YW (you’re welcome), TNX (thanks), IMO/IMHO (in my opinion/in my humble opinion) just to name a few, have crept up in students writing so much so that they are unable to understand the differences between the right and wrong way of spelling correctly. Teachers see the decline in proper writing in capitalization, punctuation, and subject-verb agreements, to name a few. Students are so immersed in poor grammar usage while online that they rely heavily on computer devices to autocorrect their mistakes resulting in the decline of their command over the use of English language. Subsequently creating a conflict in grammar usage.
Another key point not to be overlooked is the effect of social media on face-to-face communication. Clearly, if students spend more time on social networks then we can agree that they spend less time socializing in person. Lack of face-to-face interpersonal interactions can be directly linked to lack of social skills and etiquette. We learn important behaviors and emotional cues from close personal contact that cannot be learned online. As a result some students never learn to read body signals and other nonverbal cues, like tone and inflection. Social networking sites should not be seen as a replacement for personal contact but a valuable addition that can create a well rounded socially adjusted individual.
Today many students have become less social with one another preferring to interact online and live a virtual world based on false personas made easily accessible by social networking sites. This of course can have a lasting effect on the family unit, where effective face-to-face communication is essential in maintaining healthy relationships. Can we then cast some of the blame of today’s social ills and break down in family structure on social media? Often times, we go to restaurants, or other public spaces and everyone is busy on a device, thus very little face- to- face communication is going on. The question is how can we create a balance? How do we compete with this valuable tool we call the Internet whilst still maintaining healthy relationships?
Social media/networking affects both students and teachers alike. For instance, cyber-bullying can be seen as the leading negative proponent of social media. Many times violence in schools has started via a social networking site. Teachers are also affected by cyber-bullying. The perpetrators are sometimes students and/or parents. This abuse can be very damaging for a teacher as it decreases overall efficiency and confidence in the classroom. Teachers experience climbing levels of emotion stemming from being sad to becoming angry over online harassment. The experience can be humiliating and embarrassing. Defamation of character is quite common in the cyber world and continues to affect both teachers and students alike.
Social Media obviously affects all of us in some way or the other whether positively or negatively. Technology will continue to evolve, therefore; it is imperative that parents, teacher’s administrators and students all join hands together in encouraging positive, productive, effective, safe and responsible use of this valuable tool. The long-term effects of misuse can be very dangerous to progress in education and social development.