Internet-enabled mobile phones, tablets, and other portable devices have become accessible and an integral part of most people’s day-to-day activities at home, school, and the workplace. Advancement in computer programming and information technology has availed a wide variety of internet platforms and applications that allow people to communication in real-time and share ideas and content such as pictures and videos with acquaintances from different parts of the world. The Internet has become the new platform for dissemination of information, interaction and building of contacts through the numerous social networking services. An increasing number of school children are carrying mobile phones and tablets to school not only for purposes of communication but also to stay updated on the happenings in social media websites such as Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Google Plus. Registration with a social media website has become the trend for Generation Y and an inevitable subject for children, teens and adults. Psychologists have raised concerns on the dangers posed by social networking due to its virtual nature, which eliminates personal and emotional aspects in interactions and threatens the foundation upon which social and emotional development thrive in real life. Social networking has become a norm for all age groups, and lack of participation creates a feeling of exclusion and isolation for most people. The available evidence regarding the impacts of social networking on the users shows that Facebook, which may be a great tool for learning, has detrimental effects on the concentration level of students.
A high level of students’ concentration enhances the teacher’s effectiveness in delivering reading materials and the students’ ability to grasp and integrate the content taught. Education experts assert that inattentive students are likely to post poor grades compared to their attentive counterparts because poor concentration leads to wrong contextualization of content, which makes a student drift-far away from the intended objective of a lesson. Although students can benefit from programs that integrate social media into school learning and joining Facebook groups and pages meant for education, there is a high possibility of diverting their attention towards unproductive actives. Students can setup learning groups on Facebook and collaborate with students from different parts of the world to improve their education by uploading text and videos for purposes of reference.
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A survey by researchers from California State University illustrates the development of behavioral problems among students who spend most of their time on Facebook. The survey involves monitoring of the study habits of students and shows a phenomenon of concentration lapse among students who frequently use Facebook (Paul et al, 2012). The researchers observed that the use of Facebook reduces students’ concentration to a mere three minutes, after which they leave what they are studying to check their Facebook page. Interviews with the students to determine the amount of time they spend per day on Facebook indicate a direct relationship between the over-use of the social networking website and poor concentration, anti-social behavior and aggression. A study by JCA involving the interviewing of about 500 teachers confirms the detrimental effects of the over-use of Facebook on the attention span of students with most of the teachers complaining that few students complete their homework on time and present standard assignments due to their inability to concentrate. More than a third of the interviewed teachers attribute the poor standard of assignments to the tendency of students to complete their assignments in a hurry to save more time for communication with their Facebook friends. The study shows that students who tend to spend most of their time on Facebook have the poorest grades due to their fixation on social network. Facebook hampers teacher-student communication by detracting an individual from real human contact, which leads to delayed reception and interpretation of messages in the classroom. Furthermore, the lack of interpersonal interaction means that the student is less willing to participate actively in the learning process, which is detrimental to his understanding of new concepts and ideas introduced by the teacher. Apart from the concentration lapse and time wastage due to Facebook, spending long hours, especially at night, on social networking leads to excessive tiredness, which disengages children from learning. Sleep deprivation has detrimental effects on a student’s concentration and may eventually lead to health problems, which would complicate the adverse effects of poor concentration. Educational psychologists warn that children who become extremely engrossed in social networks are likely to withdraw from school-related activities and tasks that do not allow access to a computer or mobile phone.
Experts attribute the negative effects of social networking on children and teenagers to the demands associated with the constantly expanding network of friends, which requires a lot of time to manage. Social media provides an expansive community of peers, which creates the tendency of children to learn from one another instead of relying on the traditional source of knowledge. The peer pressure in social media diverts a student’s attention from important goals as he/she attempts to keep up with the demands of his/her virtual friends. Addiction to social networks is comparable to a drug addiction and thus requires the adoption of intervening measures such as guidance and counseling. Teachers and parents should help students to live responsibly with the excitement of social networking without neglecting their studies and other important aspects of life. Students should understand the need for moderation when using Facebook because its virtual nature means that it and cannot replace real-life activities including reading. Teaching children the benefits of face-to-face communication will help them to improve their skills in interpreting verbal cues and body language, which are evident in the learning environment. Children’s ability to differentiate between meaningful content and nonsense in social media will help them not lose sight of the importance of their studies because they will be largely focusing on educative content.
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An evaluation of the benefits and disadvantages of social networking shows that students who frequently use Facebook suffer detrimental effects on their academic performance because of the tendency to allocate a lot of time to social networking leaving little time to concentrate on studying. The extent of the detrimental effects of Facebook on a student’s concentration is directly proportional to the amount of time that the student spends on the social network. Despite the banning of mobile phones in most schools, teachers are witnessing an increase in the number of students secretly carrying their phones to school to remain connected to social networks. Considering the amount of time that children spend on social networks, there is no doubt that over-use Facebook contributes to the poor performance of students who are increasingly dedicating more efforts to social networks rather than studying. While the benefits of social networks are huge, the lack of proper management and guidance on the use of Facebook is leading to dysfunctional learning environment due to the creation of isolated individuals with poor concentration and communication and interaction skills. Proper learning requires a combination of meaningful activities that allow learners to interact face-to-face with one other and their teachers and parents.