Tracy Le Blanc
Social media rewiring student brains at PMHS
January 28, 2018
Social media “is a great way to distract yourself from homework and avoid doing it. It’s not worth it in the end,” said Marisa Lucky (9), speaking out about the recent spread of social networking at our school. At Patterson Mill High School, the use of social media has become more prevalent among students and is even incorporated into their learning habits. This may be making it more difficult for students to focus on school work, leading to a decrease in GPA and overall lack of effort. With the enforcement of BYOT, cellular devices are being abused in the classroom, students are prioritizing their social lives over their school work, cyber-bullying is interfering with focus, students are procrastinating, and more.
Technology is officially tolerated in the classroom for educational purposes with the use of Bring Your Own Technology. This means that, depending on the teacher, students usually won’t be given consequences when they have their devices out or on them. Although teachers are cautious of their students’ technology usage, as many students can easily hide devices, such as smart phones, to check their social media apps during class. Not only is this distracting to their peers, but it’s also prohibiting students from getting a full education as they make it difficult to pay attention.
“I check [social media] about once or twice during class,” Marisa Lucky admits. When technology is tolerated, it is too tempting for students to avoid checking their notifications, since their phones are right at their fingertips. Although the school Wifi filters social media apps and sites, students can simply disconnect from the network and visit the apps and sites on using their own data.
High school students are especially vulnerable. In 2015, an estimated 3 million adolescents aged 12-17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, according to the National Institute for Mental Health. Social media is a great way for students to share and interact with others that they can relate to, but many students face jealousy and peer comparisons on a physical and emotional level. When a student compares their appearance or their life to other students, they become insecure and begin to put themselves down. Many students are growing unsure of their identity, losing themselves in expectations that social media provides and standards that they’ve set for themselves in order to feel worthy.
Students in high school often face insecurity and the spread of social media only makes insecurity linger more than it ever has before, making them focus on their appearance, reputation, or of what other people think of them, instead of their schoolwork. Students, unfortunately, put priority on seeking acceptance from social media and will often push their school work to the side if it means improving their social life.
Cyber-bullying has also become a serious form of harassment recently at Patterson Mill High School. The Harford County Examiner reported that around half of teens have been victims to cyber-bullying and that only 1 in 10 teens tell their parents when they’re a victim to cyber-bullying (bullyingstatistics.org). When students are bullied online, it often extends to creating an unsafe environment in their classes and this often interferes with their motivation to complete school work. Students experiencing online bullying may feel humiliated and unsafe and find it very difficult to pay attention. Often, students know their abuser and see them in school and, therefore, the online attacks could lead to harassment and bullying in school as well as out of school. Having to withstand harassment can also lead to depression and further insecurity in teens, which will make it even more difficult for teens to stay on top of their work and find the motivation to complete all their assignments.
Social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat make it very easy to quickly, and often even anonymously, bully others and receive little or no consequence. Students may begin to feel alone because of the lack of consequences and may feel as though it’s pointless to reach out to an adult. Cyberbullying is one of the largest distractions for vulnerable high school students and makes their sense of self-worth decrease greatly.
Finally, high school students at PMHS have been procrastinating on their school work more with the introduction of technology in the classroom. Procrastination is one of the main reasons for incomplete or poorly done schoolwork. When students prioritize other things, such as spending time on social media, procrastination is easy and makes them feel as though they’re not doing anything wrong. Social media is an easy way to get side tracked and seems to make time fly faster. Marisa admits that, “[social media] makes me procrastinate until 12 at night… Once you’re on, you can’t get off. I think that people should have self-control and prioritize their homework.” Like many other students, “The internet distracts from things I need to do, like homework and chores,” explains Marisa.
Many students don’t realize they prioritize social media and don’t believe that social media interferes with their schoolwork. However, it may be time to begin thinking of a routine in which students can complete their school work before they use social media applications.
Students should begin to consider their school work as their main priority and realize that although social media is tempting and may feel fun, it may become a trap and leave them pushing aside school assignments and even lowering self-esteem. Students using their data plans during class should have a more severe consequence to encourage students to pay attention. PMHS student’s behavior should be monitored more closely so that they become better, more productive students.