Social Media and Schoolchildren: How much is too much?

The impact social media could be having on your children

A recent study has brought up some very interesting questions about social media and the amount of time that schoolchildren should be using them.

The study found that a fifth of secondary school pupils are awake almost every night using social media, and the disruption is causing them to be more fatigued and irritable than pupils who have had a good night’s sleep without Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and the endless messages, alerts and notifications that come with being on the social networks.

The study was carried out on secondary school children by researchers at the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data & Methods (Wiserd), and surveyed more than 800 pupils across year 8 (aged 12 and 13) and year 10 (aged 14 and 15) to see how often they were checking their social media accounts every night.

The survey found that 22% of year 8 pupils and 23% of year 10s said that they used social media at night “almost always”, and 14% of the younger group said they did so at least once a week.

The report also found that 17% of year 8s and 28% of year 10s said they went to bed at midnight or later. 6% of the younger group said that they went to bed after 1am.

What does this research show us?

The research shows a clear link between fatigue and disruption in pupils and the use of social media. In today’s world, teenagers don’t want to miss a thing, they want to be – pun intended – linked into everything and be constantly in the loop as to what is happening in each other’s lives. This, in turn, leads to sleeping with a smartphone next to your pillow so you can receive Tweets, Facebook messages and Snapchat’s as they happen.

The survey also found that more than half of the pupils who said that they “almost always” felt tired at school also responded the same when asked if they woke to check their social media accounts and receive notifications.

That’s the equivalent of having a torch shone in your face every time you fall asleep, and a recipe for disaster when it comes to behaviour and concentration in the classroom.

The report follows another recent study from the University of Glasgow that warned that teenagers using social media through the night were increasing their risk of anxiety and depression, especially as the symptoms and behaviours can be fed with around the clock access to their social media accounts.

Both reports have launched a further debate on what can be done by parents and schoolchildren to better regulate their usage and dependency on social media and online technology, and find out exactly how much is too much when it comes to their usage.

You can argue that the fault lies with the parents, who are purchasing the smartphones and tablets that are feeding their children’s need to be social media savvy, but this goes beyond parental control. Technology is part of our everyday lives, and people shouldn’t be deprived of it in order to prevent the worst from happening. The goal is to find the right balance, but it’s easier said than done.

Dr Paul Kelley – a former headteacher who now works at Oxford University’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute – made headlines recently when he said that school start times should be pushed back to 11am to cater for this change in behaviour and the amount of sleep-deprivation that has come as a result of technology and social media reliance in the young.

It may be too late in the day to make those kinds of changes, but it shows the severity of the situation, and the need to find a solution to a growing problem.

Who is responsible for social media education?

We have also covered the topic around social media safety for children including school kids being educated on the dangers of using social media and cause and effect of cyberbullying.

However, the questions is should school kids also be educated on the behavioural side effects of excessive time spent on social media?  If so who is responsible for this, is it the schools or parents or should the social networks themselves be taking more care of its young followers?  As we embrace the evolution in communication and the access to mobile apps and social technology, it is clear there are many educational benefits for children but on the flip side there is the daily distractions, sleep deprivation and behavioural changes which all have a natural knock-on effect on learning and concentration. There is no better time than the present to make children aware of the ways in which they can use social media positively and safely and know when it’s time to switch off!

As a company with deep roots in social media and the use of digital tools we are certainly not against the integration of social media in children’s daily lives.  We do however believe in social platforms being used to educate, inspire and have a positive impact on people including children that are growing up with it embedded in their social culture.

Please share this article and comment on our social media pages if you think social media could be having an impact on children’s education and behaviour and how you suggest this is tackled #socialkids

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