Screens and Teens: How Social Media Affects Learning

As the world becomes more connected through social media, teenagers are more distracted than ever. They have instant access to the thoughts and feelings of friends and strangers and often this is more intriguing than any other subject at hand. So how do we as parents, educators and tutors answer the challenges technology presents? How do we turn our teens away from the screens so they can focus on their studies?

Social media use is distracting students

According to the Pew Research Center, 81% of teens use social media of some sort. It is ubiquitous, and with smartphones it is available around the clock. This causes distractions. Middle Tennessee State University conducted a study in which students were asked to watch a video on the computer. For some students in the study, social media tabs were available in the background behind the video. When students were tested on the contents of the video, students with access to social media did worse on the exam, as they had drifted or spent attention elsewhere.

This observation translates to students at home doing homework or studying. As more and more homework assignments involve computers, it is difficult for students to avoid social media distractions in the background and focus on the task at hand.

The key to successful learning is the environment

C2 learning environments eliminate distraction, helping students focus on their studies. We can help kids find a safe, collaborative environment that allows them to reach their full potential. Some of the strategies we use in our teaching centers can help students at home.

1. Have a routine

When it is study time, study. It’s that simple. A good routine allows students to know when they need to focus on work and when they can interact with friends. Kids should study at the same time, every day, so that both their bodies and their brains get in the habit of sitting down and focusing at that time.

2. Shut off the internet

If a student is studying on a laptop and doesn’t truly need the Internet for research, turn off the Wi-Fi functionality. If he or she is using a desktop computer, unplug the Internet cable. Kids will be surprised to see what all a computer can do without the Internet.

3. Put away the smartphone

When studying, put the smartphones in another room far away from the workspace. This is one way to avoid the buzzes and dings of message updates that might steal a student’s attention.

Take the first step today

Every child learns differently. Eliminating social media from the equation is one way to get a child’s undivided attention, but be sure to try a number of different techniques to get your child to focus. Some parents set a social media budget, or allotted time a child can draw from, so everyone knows when device time is appropriate. Others stick to a very stringent routine. There is no single right answer. Try multiple ways to get your child to focus on the task at hand and let us know what worked for you in the comments.