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15 Reasons Teachers Say Social Media Isn’t All Bad for Students

Social media is the bane of many educators’ existence.

The platforms distract students from paying attention in class, make it harder for kids to communicate in-person, keep teens feeling isolated, and hurt students’ overall self-confidence, educators say.

But many teachers and school and district leaders do see some positive impact from the apps and platforms that they otherwise disdain.

One big bright spot: social media gives students a chance to pick up knowledge or delve into topics that they aren’t learning about in school. Thirty percent of educators surveyed by the EdWeek Research Center in December and January identified that learning opportunity as a positive outcome of social media use.

“Social media is a place where young people do engage in some self-directed and informal learning,” said Jeff Carpenter, a professor of education at Elon University who studies social media in education, who is also a former high school teacher. “And I think [for] teachers, there’s interest in encouraging students not just to learn within the confines of the school building, not just to learn about the things that teachers tell them they have to learn about, but to realize that you can learn outside of the school context, you can learn [about] topics that aren’t assigned to you. Follow your passions. Explore things.”

Nearly another quarter of educators surveyed said their students have been able to go deeper into topics they are learning about in school through social media, developed positive friendships, improved their creative skills, or received recognition or praise for their accomplishments.

Another quarter of educators surveyed said they couldn’t think of a single positive development arising from students’ social media use. The nationally representative survey of 595 educators was conducted from Dec. 21, 2023 to Jan. 2, 2024.

While Stefanie McKoy, a special education teacher at Branson Middle School in Missouri, understands why some teachers find social media nothing but problematic, her own perspective is more nuanced.

“Social media is a way for students to connect to the world,” said McKoy, who also works as a lecturer at University of Arkansas and studied social media platforms while pursuing her doctorate. “It gives students power, and a sense of choice. … I think what draws students to social media is that they’re like, ‘Oh, hey, you know, I can purposely look at this,’ or, ‘Hey, there’s another student that looks like me, but maybe they’re at a different school.’ And I think that that’s really great.”

Still, McKoy thinks students need help in navigating social media platforms safely and with a critical eye.

“I think that we have to do a better job at preparing our students for social media use,” she said. “And we as educators haven’t necessarily caught up to that yet.”

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