Children these days are definitely different than other generations at their age. They have access to many devices that can help them, but which can also hurt them when learning. The majority (71%) of 685 public and private elementary and high school classroom teachers involved in a survey in May this year think that students’ media use hurts their attention span. 59% of the respondents think that face-to-face communication is affected by social media use, 58% of them think that students’ writing is affected, 48% of them mentioned homework and 42% pointed out that critical thinking is negatively influenced by media use. This report was conducted in the USA for Common Sense Media by Knowledge Networks (now part of the GfK Group).
“Attention spans seem to be decreasing, as does students’ abilities to persist through difficult tasks. (They’d rather just push restart and start over),” said an elementary school teacher.
From the entertainment media available, elementary school teachers cited video games, television, and computer games as the ones with the biggest negative impact on kids’ academic performances, while middle and high school teachers mentioned texting and social networking as most important.
Beside this negative influence, there are however some benefits quoted by teachers, 63% of them mentioning finding information more quickly and 34% mentioning the increase in students’ ability of multitasking.
“This is not a study that can document whether teachers’ perceptions about media’s influence are accurate. It does not include any objective measures of attention span, writing, or face-to-face communication, nor any way to link outcomes to individual children’s media use patterns. However, it does surface some important and broadly held concerns of the nation’s teachers,” as explained in the study.
56% of the queried teachers said they have a smartphone. 66% of the respondents think of themselves as comfortable with computers and smartphones but not the first to try new devices, while only 18% think of themselves as tech savvy, and another 16% do not feel comfortable with many applications or newer technologies. Only 15% of the teachers interviewed use social media to connect with students and parents.
The study definitely needs to be continued in other more comprehensive researches in order to clearly map out the way entertainment media use affects students, regardless of their age. However, it is an alarm signal regarding the impact of new technologies on attention span and other important areas of the learning process.