The Impact of Facebook

The TIME article “Kids Who Use Facebook Do Worse in School” highlights research findings (good and bad) on how using Facebook impacts a child’s overall personality and performance in school. The findings were delivered at the 119th annual convention of the American Psychological Association by Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, who researches the psychology of technology.

The researchers observed kids’ study behavior and found that every three minutes they were off-task. (Three minutes?!) The more time elapsed, the more windows students opened on the computer, with the highest number of windows at 8-10 minutes. When students toggled between windows and other tasks, they performed worse. Not surprising – these findings echo other research studies that show multi-tasking is actually inefficient. Yet, how often do you jump between windows and tasks? (I’m so guilty of this!) Unfortunately, it’s almost become the nature of work these days.

Here is a quick recap of the findings:

The bad news…

  • Those middle school, high school, and college students who checked Facebook at least once during a 15 minute period got lower grades.
  • Teens who use Facebook tend to have more narcissistic tendencies.

The good news…

  • Kids who spent more time online were the kids most able to demonstrate “virtual empathy”, through supportive comments online. This, Rosen, says translates to real-world empathy, “We are finding that kids who are able to express more virtual empathy are able to express more real-world empathy… They feel more supported socially by online and offline networks.”

A few strategies:

  • Metacognition – use this as an opportune time to teach kids about metacognition, knowing how your brain works and how you learn/study best.
  • “Tech breaks” – teachers scaffold students in expanding their attention span. Ask them to work for 15 minutes and then give students a one minute tech break.



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