It is undeniable that social media and technology are a part of students’ lives. Research from Common Sense Media tells us that students spend an average of 8.3 hours daily on screen media. Pew Research Center found that 95% of US teens have access to a smartphone or a computer, and more than half of teens say that it would be difficult for them to give up social media.
As students transition back into the classroom this fall from the long, unstructured days of summer where they likely had more free time to scroll through TikTok, watch Netflix with their families, and game on Fortnite with their friends, educators are asking themselves how to empower their students to strike a balance with their social media and technology and navigate the digital distractions that are a part of students’ everyday lives.
It’s a good question, especially since these digital distractions are not just coming from students’ personal devices, but also school-issued technology. In fact, students have more access to devices within class than ever before, with 96% of teachers reporting a 1:1 ratio of computers to students in the classroom.
In our work at The Social Institute, it has become clear that when educators understand how social media and technology affect students’ lives, it’s easier to create an effective game plan for empowering students to strike a balance with their social media and technology and manage digital distractions in class.
The role of social media and technology in students’ lives
Not all screen time is created equal. For example, FaceTiming a loved one or building a world in Minecraft is very different from scrolling through TikTok videos for an hour. To help visualize this, we created the Screen Time Pyramid, with active and shared experiences taking up the larger blocks at the bottom of the pyramid and the more passive activities taking up the smaller spaces at the top. As with the traditional food pyramid, we want to aim for more of the shared experiences at the bottom and limit the more passive ones at the top.