Social networks have become a major part of our social life. It can be argued that their exceptional popularity has redefined social interactions in modern society. However, not everyone agrees that the changes are positive. While their entertainment value is undisputed, the long-term effects on various aspects of human development are not studied conclusively, opening the possibility for speculation. The following paper summarizes the effects of social networks on academic performance, information processing, and various aspects of social activity as arguments in favor of prohibiting social networks on school property.
The most apparent area of inquiry that should be explored to substantiate the argument is the impact of social networks on academic performance. Popular wisdom suggests that using social media is a major distraction for students and, as a result, serves as a significant barrier to the effective learning process. However, in order to ensure the validity of this suggestion, it is necessary to confirm it using reliable sources.
The possible relationship between academic performance and the use of social media resources is an actively debated topic both among educators and the general public. A number of studies have been conducted intended to clarify the issue. For instance, one study investigated the impact of mobile devices with internet connectivity, such as smartphones and tablet PCs, on student performance. Admittedly, in this case, the involvement of social networks can be measured only indirectly since such devices can be used for a variety of purposes. Nevertheless, according to observations, social networks comprise a significant proportion of activities performed on the devices, making the results relevant to the argument.
According to the results of the study, the majority of students demonstrated a significant increase in performance after the introduction of a ban on mobile devices. Specifically, an average GPA of 3.06 increased to 3.82 after the introduction of a ban (Beland and Murphy 61). The improvement was observed both in the objective assessment (the average student scores improved by approximately five percent) and on the perceived level (the feedback from the students indicated mainly a favorable reaction to the policy). Interestingly, the low-performing students were primarily responsible for the described effect. Nevertheless, it is possible to consider the results as supporting the idea of prohibiting the use of social networks on school property.
The findings of the study above can be corroborated by the results of the study that investigated a connection between several factors, including screen time (the time spent with the device that has a screen), and academic performance. According to the findings, the performance was impacted mainly by parenting styles and family time, whereas screen time had a negative effect on both of the identified variables (Pressman et al. 347). Simply put, screen time had only an indirect impact on student’s success in school and could be mitigated by the respective increase in family time. Again, it is possible to assume that screen time is not an adequate measurement of social network use, since only a certain proportion of screen time was allocated for social network use, and at least some of the devices did not have social network access at all. Nevertheless, these results are the closest estimate of their effect on school performance.
A more focused inquiry was performed by a research team that identified two social networks, Facebook and WhatsApp, and explored the effects of their use on student performance within the context of social learning. The findings identified several areas of concern, such as a correlation between frequent social network use and poor spelling and grammar, less time allocated for study, poor academic performance, and late submission of the assignments (Mingle and Adams 2). It was also noted by the researchers that frequent users of social media platforms exhibited signs of psychological addiction, which compromised their social learning capacity. Interestingly, in some cases, social networks were used by students to improve the learning process (e.g. for sharing the examination questions and assignments). However, it is unclear whether such activities lead to an improvement in academic performance since no such effect was observed by the research team.
As can be seen from the information above, the effect of social media use on studying differs depending on the way the latter is used by students. In other words, it is possible to speculate that utilizing the engagement and communication capabilities of social networks and similar web services offer a productivity boost and minimize redundant operations. For instance, it seems reasonable to suggest that the ability to share information relevant to studying saves time that would otherwise be wasted on locating it individually for each case. However, such a perspective omits two important caveats. First, it is equally plausible to expect a negative effect as a result of such simplification since it reduces the time spent on independent inquiry. The modern informational environment is oversaturated with information, so to become an efficient member of society, students need to increase their critical thinking capacity and information analysis skills.
In this light, the streamlined process of receiving information impedes the development of critical thinking skills and eliminates an important aspect of interacting with the informational domain created by the widespread adoption of the Internet. In simple terms, students who share information related to studying do not obtain the experience necessary for efficient independent inquiry and information processing. Second, the described perspective is based on the assumption that students use social networks mainly as learning instruments, whereas other aspects of the services (e.g. entertainment) are ignored. On an intuitive level, such possibility does not seem likely since the platforms in question are entertainment-oriented. Essentially, Facebook and similar services make money by engaging people in fun activities and constantly improve the methods and strategies of involvement, whereas educational aspect is neither a priority nor a direction of development. At this point, it is possible to suggest that students that use social networks are able to combine the entertainment aspects of social platforms with their functional benefits.
In other words, the diversity of functions of the service does not compromise the quality of education and provides a reasonable boost to learning. However, the first assertion has been conclusively proven false by the evidence cited above, and the second one rests on the assumption that students in question are good at multitasking, which is another controversial topic. While the current generation of students exhibits behaviors and traits that suggest an impressive capacity for multitasking, a growing body of evidence also suggests that it does not provide the advantages attributed to it. One study explored the effects of Facebook use on studying with the additional focus on the ability of students to process several streams of information without a decline in efficiency. According to the results of the survey, users of Facebook reported lower grades and dedicating less time to studying than non-users (Kirschner and Karpinski 1237). In other words, despite the attractive concept of multitasking as a way to optimize the efficiency of the learning process, it offers no observable benefits and actually compromises the learning outcomes.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that despite the attractiveness of the idea of using social networks for academic assistance, there is insufficient evidence to consider it a possibility. In fact, some sources suggest that only a fraction of social media activity is characterized by its users as a contribution to the educational process. According to a survey by the Common Sense Census, teens actively use computers both for their homework and social media activities. However, the majority of respondents considered these activities incompatible and reported using them separately rather than in combination. In addition, more than half of the students stated that social media has no positive impact on their performance, with more than ten percent considering it a detriment to studying (Common Sense 2). While the survey in question focused on homework as its area of interest, it is relevant to the argument since it offers a valid perspective on the perceived value of social networks for educational purposes.
In addition, it provides evidence that the adverse effects of social media on academic performance are not mitigated by the alleged ability of the generation to process several streams of information effectively. In fact, it would be reasonable to expect an even greater negative impact on grades at school, where an independent inquiry is not a priority and distraction constitutes a major barrier to effective learning.
Social Networks and Critical Thinking
The second aspect that needs to be considered is an overall impact on information processing. As was mentioned in the previous section, information becomes an increasingly valuable asset in contemporary society. The ability to identify and analyze the available data and apply findings to presenting problems is a key component of a successful individual. At the same time, the volume of information available online has increased exponentially in the recent years, making the inquiry process gradually more challenging. Unfortunately, the open nature of the Web creates a situation where the control over quality and validity of the information is severely limited. Combined with the exceptional accessibility of the information published online and the customization offered by various informational services (including social networks), these factors create a feasible risk of misinformation on an unprecedented scale. Social networks are among the most notable contributors to this effect for three reasons. First, their user base currently includes a significant proportion of the population, which ensures significant coverage of the published information. It should also be acknowledged that young audience comprises a considerable percentage of the users.
Second, due to the fact that social networks rarely focus on delivery of reliable information, the main bulk of content is provided by the users, who are not necessarily proficient in the delivery of trustworthy content. The adverse effect is further aggravated by the existence of organizations and individuals who generate a considerable volume of misinformation aimed at achieving certain social, political, and cultural effects. The activity of such entities is highly efficient and systematic, creating a situation where misinformation has a greater chance of being accepted at face value by uncritical segment of the audience. Third, and, perhaps, most importantly, the social component of most of the social platforms relies on mechanisms of content sharing. In other words, social media is designed to propagate the information through efforts of individual users. As a result, the information is disseminated based on its attractiveness and entertainment value rather than reliability. Essentially, the information that propagates in such a setting is judged by its recurrence rather than reliability. Since, as was mentioned earlier, the popularity mainly results from entertainment value, sensational information organically ends up in the top tier.
The information above makes it clear that social media is a massive source of unreliable information. First, social networks compromise the quality of knowledge for students by creating a false impression of reliability based on the factor of popularity and recurrence. The described effect is particularly damaging due to
Second, it undermines their capacity for critical thinking. As a result, the students are less likely to develop the skills and tactics necessary for operating in a contemporary informational environment.
Long-Term Social Impacts
Finally, it is necessary to acknowledge indirect adverse impacts of social networks on the development of students. Despite their seemingly positive effect on social interaction, resources such as Facebook have been found to cause numerous problems in the social domain. For instance, extensive use of social network platforms prioritizes compliance with online models of behavior and prompts users to seek acceptance by building reputation on the Web. Since these traits are rarely applicable in the real-world setting, adolescents experience significant difficulties with fulfilling the expectations of the peers. The interpersonal cues built around social platform functionality are for the most part incompatible with those necessary to engage in meaningful communication with peers.
The effect is further exacerbated by the disillusionment caused by the seemingly unexpected change in social protocols and rules and, by extension, confusion, frustration, and stress (New York Behavioral Health). On some occasions, the excessive use of social networks also leads to conflicts over issues encountered online. While seemingly harmless, in the extreme cases such conflicts may end up in open confrontation and violence. The described scenario was observed twice by the author, and numerous anecdotal accounts of peers seem to corroborate this suggestion. Finally, social networks have an adverse effect on interpersonal relationships later in life, compromising the possibility of becoming a functional member of society. In addition, such an effect deprives adolescents of emotional and psychological support, which may then be substituted by further use of social networks in an attempt to mitigate the effect. Essentially, the effect may become self-sustained, creating an effect of a vicious circle.
Another social impediment created by the services in question is the inability to manage time effectively. The majority of users of social networks consider them a major waste of time and report agree that restrictions can lead to favorable results. The described effect can be observed outside school setting and has an adverse impact on several areas of activity, with employment being the most evident one. Essentially, the efforts of the educational system to prepare students to the expectations and requirements posed by society are at least partially compromised by the adverse effects of social networks.
As can be seen, social networks have profound negative effect on academic performance of students, their ability to analyze the information critically, and, in the long run, various aspects of social activities. Admittedly, they also provide several minor benefits in the form of easier access to information and seamless communication with peers. Nevertheless, the said positive effects remain negligible in comparison to the long-term negative impact. Thus, I would be reasonable t restrict access to social platforms on school property to mitigate the described effects and provide the students with necessary development opportunities.
Beland, Louis-Philippe, and Richard Murphy. “Ill Communication: Technology, Distraction & Student Performance.” Labour Economics, vol. 41, 2014, pp. 61-76.
Common Sense. “Homework and Multitasking.” Common Sense Census, 2015, Web.
Kirschner, Paul, and Aryn Karpinski. “Facebook® and Academic Performance.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 26, no. 6, 2010, pp. 1237-1245.
Mingle, Jeffrey, and Musah Adams. “Social Media Network Participation and Academic Performance in Senior High Schools in Ghana.” Library Philosophy and Practice, vol. 1286, 2015, pp. 1-51.
New York Behavioral Health. “The Impact of Social Media Use on Social Skills.” New York Behavioral Health, n.d., Web.
Pressman, Robert, et al. “Examining the Interface of Family and Personal Traits, Media, and Academic Imperatives Using the Learning Habit Study.” The American Journal of Family Therapy, vol. 42, no. 5, 2014, pp. 347-363.