British secondary school teachers spend the equivalent of 11 days’ teaching time every year just dealing with classroom disruptions related to social media and smart devices, according to new research released today by Nominet, the internet company best known for managing the .UK internet infrastructure. Building on last year’s Share with Care campaign, this study aims to highlight the social media issues that are taking place in classrooms across the country.
On average, secondary school teachers lose 17.2 minutes of teaching time every day to disruptions caused by social media or smart devices. That equates to 86 minutes every week, and over 11 days of teaching time over the year (assuming five hours of lessons per day, and a 39-week school year).
The disruptions themselves come in many different forms. Almost half (46%) of secondary school teachers have experienced pupils using social media smartphone apps during classes, while four in 10 (40%) have experienced pupils’ confidence being damaged by social media issues. Meanwhile over a quarter (27%) have experienced social media cyber bullying in class and 17% have had pupils sharing explicit or pornographic content. Half of teachers (50%) say that social media issues such as these are contributing to their pupils achieving lower grades than they could.
Resolving social media issues
With so many children on social media platforms, the majority of teachers (58%) have helped to educate their pupils on the associated risks during informal chats or one-to-one tutor time. The most common social media risks they help their pupils deal with are cyber bullying (71%), managing privacy settings (63%), messaging with strangers (63%), profile activity being seen by future employers/universities (58%) and self-esteem issues (56%).
The long term mental impact of social media is a particular cause for concern, with more than half of teachers (57%) saying social media has negatively affected their pupils’ mental health. In addition, three quarters (76%) agree that social media is making children grow up faster, and almost two-thirds (64%) say their pupils struggle to cope with social media pressure.
But many teachers don’t feel equipped to provide the best help. Almost a quarter (24%) said they don’t have the right skills to assist their pupils with these issues, slightly more than those who say that they “definitely” have the right skills (23%). Over half (52%) consider themselves “somewhat” equipped to help.
Are school policies helping?
Teachers aren’t facing social media issues in isolation though, as the vast majority of schools (83%) now have social media/device policies in place. However more than four in 10 teachers at these schools (42%) say these policies are difficult to enforce. More can also be done to help keep these policies relevant. Many social media trends can emerge in a matter of days or weeks, yet one in 10 schools have either never updated their social media policy or update it less often than once every year.
However, teachers themselves have ideas as to how things could improve. Almost three-quarters (72%) think smartphones should be banned from the classroom completely, while almost two-thirds (63%) think schools need dedicated staff to deal with social media and internet issues. However, the biggest difference could actually be made at home, with more than eight in 10 teachers (84%) saying that parents need to do more to help their children understand social media risks.
A silver lining…
Despite many negative issues around social media, more than six in 10 teachers (62%) have tried to use it and similar technologies in a more positive way within the classroom. The most popular activities are using shared online services to collaborate on assignments (72%), creating a joint class or school blog (65%) and using social media sites to gather information or research (65%).
Russell Haworth, CEO, Nominet, comments, “With the new school year just underway, this research should be a wake-up call for all of us about the impact social media is having in schools. It should force us to look at how we can better support teachers to manage the social media problems they face each day in the classroom, as well as safeguarding our children.
“The time spent dealing with the impact of social media during school hours is alarming. Our children need help understanding that there is a time and place for social media and a level of maturity and responsibility required for it. If not, then the consequences could be very damaging. After all, once you see something you can’t ‘unsee’ it, and likewise, once you share something you can’t ‘unshare’ it. Parents and teachers need to help pupils be aware of the pitfalls of social media, and encourage them to always share with care.”
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