Is Social Media Making Your Kids Less Smart?

Social Media and Kids' SmartsEight in ten teens have a profile on at least one of the many social media websites out there and most of them are on it daily, according to a recent report.

This is hardly big news if you have a teen in the house – or even a tween like I do. Although social sites like Facebook and Instagram require users to be at least 13 years old, many of my daughter’s friends had Instagram accounts since fifth grade. My burning question: How’s all this posting, tweeting, and liking going to affect getting good grades?

In college students, at least, it doesn’t seem to make a difference. In a study at the University of New Hampshire, 63 percent of undergrads who used social media for an hour or more a day got As and Bs compared to 65 percent who used it for a half-hour or less. But, research from a couple of years ago on middle- and high-school students suggests that social networking is a big distraction. The researchers from the University of California observed students studying in their homes for 15 minutes afterschool. They found that the kids who checked Facebook once during that studying time had lower grades than students who stayed on task. I wonder if this problem might have been solved with one simple rule we have at home: You can’t check your phone, iPod, or other electronic device until after all homework is done.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also has weighed in on the use of social media websites by tweens and teens. In reading over the report, I was surprised about the educational benefits of social media that the group listed, including “enhancement of individual and collective creativity” and the “expansion of one’s online connections through shared interests to include others from more diverse backgrounds.” I never really thought about it, but I guess all those cute photos with sayings that the kids are always posting and re-posting on Instagram are pretty creative. And the ability to connect with kids of the same age from around the world could definitely give your child a more global view.

I suppose what it all comes down to is supervision. The TV time limits we had when my daughter was younger have simply been redefined to include anything electronic – whether it’s texting, Facetiming, social networking, or watching Good Luck Charlie. If her grades slip, we’ll have to re-visit the issue, of course. But, for now, I’m okay with it. How about you?

About the Author

Karen Cicero is a health and nutrition writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience. She has written health articles for such national publications as Prevention, SHAPE, Health, Fitness, SELF and Cooking Light. She has also edited the dental column for Heart & Soul magazine and is the co-author of Kitchen Counter Cures.


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