Is Social Media and Technology Affecting our Students?

If you are a parent of a school aged student, you are likely wondering if your children are being negatively affected from the use of so many technological devices. From cell phones, computers, music devices, electronic notebooks, Facebook, Twitter, etc., students are likely involved in their use. Is all of this electronic interaction negatively impacting students’ attention span, memory skills, writing and inter-personal communication?

As a parent and educator who has observed many students throughout my career, just from shear observation it appears that students today are thwarting their memory skills and their ability to tend to tasks for any measurable amount of time due to a seemingly addiction to technology. What began with instant messaging that hampered students grammar, word usage, sentence construction, idea development and other components of written language, has now evolved into the use of various means of social media. Students are juggling so much input and mental stimuli all at once that it appears that their attention span is dimensioning as a result.

In regards to memory, gone are the days of traveling to the local library to research periodicals, books and scholarly research papers to locate important information. When past generation’s located information in this way, they took notes and learned the information, preventing them from having to return to the library if they forgot what was researched. Today’s students visit GOOGLE and other similar search engines to locate information and have no need to memorize or transcribe notes because they can search it again in an instant. No doubt there are benefits to the World Wide Web and having so much information literally at our fingertips, but there are down sides, too!

According to a research study by Lloyd’s TSB insurance, over the course of the last ten years the average attention span has dropped from 12 minutes to about 5 minutes from what it was once was. For example, if we are honest, today, we give a YouTube video only a few seconds to determine if it’s worth watching. Declining attention spans are causing household accidents such as pans being left to boil over on the stove top, bath water allowed to overflow, and freezer doors left open, the survey suggests. But the over-50s are able to concentrate for longer periods than young people, suggesting that busy lifestyles and intrusive modern technology rather than old age are to blame for our mental decline. “More than ever, research is highlighting a trend in reduced attention and concentration spans, and as our experiment suggests, the younger generation appear to be the worst afflicted,” said sociologist David Moxon, who led the survey of 1,000 people.

A quarter of people polled in the Lloyd’s study said they regularly forget the names of close friends or relatives, and seven per cent even admitted to momentarily forgetting their own birthdays. Lack of attention can have a serious impact on task performance and increases the risk of accidents such as left pots and pans on the stove top. Last year more than $1.6 billion dollars of damage was caused by people not concentrating properly, the research found.

Following are some interesting and shocking statistics:

* People spend 700 billion minutes on Facebook each month
* 41.6% of people access emails on their mobile phones
* Facebook users instill 20 million applications every day, most of which are distractions
* Social media addiction is real! People report phantom phone vibration, reaching for a phone that doesn’t exist, fidgeting and restlessness.
* Technology creates interruptions and every time we are interrupted, our brains must reorient itself on what we were doing before interrupted.
* The average office worker check his or her email inbox 30-40 times per hour, once every 1.5 minutes
* 500,000 people join Twitter each day
* 12 millions twitter users following 64 of more twitter accounts.

If you would like to share what you are doing in your family to prevent the symptoms described above of excessive use of technology, please email them to me at We have a responsibility as parents, grandparents, and adult mentors to train young people in ways that will benefit them throughout their lifetime as they prepare for college and a career.