Michael Lerner

Tuesday - Nov 23, 2010

Kids TwitterA new study released in the UK blames social media sites like Facebook and Twitter for the decline in students’ concentration and grades. According to a survey of 500 British teachers conducted by JCA, the more time students spend social networking, the poorer their grades.

While I don’t doubt the findings of the study, I have a sense of deja vu: The same charges have been leveled at television. (I fully admit to watching many, many hours a day as a child.)

A study conducted in New Zealand in the early 1970s concluded that “Television viewing in childhood and adolescence is associated with poor educational achievement by 26 years of age. Excessive television viewing in childhood may have long-lasting adverse consequences for educational achievement and subsequent socioeconomic status and well-being.” Sound familiar?

Another study from 2007 found that “The mean of hours of television viewing during childhood was associated with symptoms of attention problems in adolescence.”

Here’s a quote from a 2006 New York times article by Elizabeth Jensen: “There is very little that television has not been blamed for when it comes to children, whether it be shortened attention spans, a predilection to violence, earlier sexual activity or a general decline in values.”  But she reports that a University of Chicago study found that TV had no effect on children’s test scores.

Nevertheless, the blame game continues. There’s got to be a reason why kids are doing so poorly in school. Could it be that traditional classrooms don’t engage students?

In an ironic twist, a study published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, students who used Twitter during a controlled semester-long experiment boosted their GPA. Now that’s something to tweet about.