Does Facebook have a positive or negative effect on students? Oh, if only the issue were so clear-cut!
Most recently, OnlineEducation.net, an online database designed to inform current and prospective students about education opportunities in the U.S., compiled a mound of research data on college students and their use of social media.
On analyzing it, the group could only conclude that the results were inconclusive and mixed. Thus, the debate roils on.
Key survey findings include:
- 96 percent of college students use Facebook;
- Grades of students who checked Facebook while studying were 20% lower than grades of those who didn’t check Facebook while studying;
- 79 percent of students did not believe that multitasking in the way mentioned above negatively affected their grades;
- 20 percent of students that use social media reported feeling connected to their institution;
- 75 percent of college students reported wanting to collaborate online.
None of this is earth-shattering. If a student in the throes of cramming for finals is distracted every few minutes by the urge to check Facebook status updates involving friends’ day-to-day dating sagas and roommate skirmishes, it only makes sense that the student will be less engaged in learning, absorb less knowledge and likely score lower on the big test.
Yet, the same results might be seen for students who get up every few minutes to grab a snack, watch TV or incessantly pick up the phone to text or call friends while studying.
However, if the student is using Facebook to propel his or her knowledge, for example, by participating in a Facebook group created by a professor for students of a particular class, than the social network may have a positive influence on education and spark the student’s interest in learning certain subject matter.
For instance, in such a space professors and students can participate in the sharing of knowledge, by posting articles (and responses to them), speaker events, lectures and personal experiences involving topics related to the course. When this happens, Facebook can be a boon to education, actively engaging students in the pursuit of knowledge. Yet, as AllFacebook recently reported, teachers are increasingly discouraged (for good reason) from accepting students’ friend requests.
An important benefit seen in the statistics above is the ability of Facebook to make college students feel socially connected, with a greater sense of community. This can be beneficial in boosting students’ self-esteem. Past studies have shown that students who are active on Facebook are more likely to participate in extra-curricular activities.
But, as we have also seen in the news, social media can also have a negative effect on emotional health when abused by cyberbullies who harass and torment peers.
Also, as AllFacebook reported, one study found that students with the most friends on Facebook feel more health-harming stress. Thus, students should be warned to not put too much stock in the social network. At the end of the day, students, as all people, of course, are more than the sum of their social network.
Ultimately, like with anything, how social media affects students may come down to how it is used and the frequency with which it is used.
Readers, do you think Facebook is good or bad for students?