Recently, two organizations surveyed teachers to learn their opinions of how digital technologies and media are effecting students, both academically and socially. The results were fascinating and if you have the time, take a look at the reports, which are listed below. The teachers in these surveys observe both positive and negative effects on children and youth, but in both cases, teachers cite a decline in students’ ability to focus on a task and work hard at acquiring knowledge. It’s another slice of data about the massive and involuntary experiment on human brain development that we are conducting on ourselves in this Wild West of digital media.
Children Teens and Entertainment Media: the View from the Classroom
Common Sense Media
How Teens Do Research in the Digital World
Pew Internet and American Life Project,
A Project of the Pew Research Center
Most of the teachers surveyed for the Pew report say the internet and digital search tools have had a mostly positive impact academically. The internet, they say, gives students access to a wider range of resources, and makes students more self-sufficient researchers. But they also say that internet search engines have “conditioned” students to expect to find information quickly and easily:
“…some teachers report that for their students ‘doing research’ has shifted from a relatively slow process of intellectual curiosity and discovery to a fast-paced, short-term exercise aimed at locating just enough information to complete an assignment.”
Overall, the vast majority of these teachers say a top priority in today’s classrooms should be teaching students “how to judge the quality of online information,” which is a part of media literacy.
The Common Sense Media report surveyed a broader range of teachers – those teaching in K to12 classrooms – and focused on entertainment media’s effect on students. Teachers in this survey were more likely to say that the content and quantity of entertainment media hurts, rather than helps, with academic skills.
The biggest problem cited is, again, reduction of attention span, followed by a decline in writing skills and the neglect of homework due to the quantity of media use.
A quote from a teacher in the CSM report: “The use of media has made students think in short bites … They cannot sustain their thinking or attention for longer than 10 minutes.”
Teachers also said that entertainment media has had a negative impact on students’ ability to communicate face to face and on their critical thinking.
Many teachers, though, agreed with the Pew finding that students’ media use improved their ability to find information quickly and efficiently, and some see a benefit to creativity.
The CSM study found that many teachers think entertainment media is having a negative effect on social development, especially on sexualization.
Other areas of concern:
- ideas about relationships between boys and girls,
- attitudes toward adults such as parents and teachers,
- a tendency to engage in anti-social behaviors like being mean,
- body image,
- aggressive behavior.
Some teachers did see a positive effect on pro-social behaviors and some said that students’ use of media has “broadened their horizons by exposing them to diverse viewpoints and experiences.”
See also the New York Times story