According to MediaPost, almost 75% of teens in the U.S. will use Facebook at least once a month this year. As the number of people who use Facebook and other forms of social media continues to rise, teens remain the largest percentage of social media users. But how does this affect their high school education? Here are some positive and negative ways in which social media currently impacts the lives of high schoolers.

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Positive Effects

1. Communicating with Teachers

Many teachers are now using Facebook and Twitter to keep their students updated on assignments, post discussion questions, and provide additional educational information. While teachers and students view this as an effective tool of communication, is it up to school districts to determine the limits of communication policies outside the classroom. Naturally, the concern lies in the fact that some teachers may go beyond the limits of professionalism when communicating with students in a manner other than face-to-face. However, if used in an appropriate manner, social media postings by teachers are a great way to keep students updated on class assignments and get them learning beyond the classroom.

2. Choosing a College

There are now a number of social media resources for high school students and their parents to help them choose a college. For example, Unigo allows current college students to review their college so that prospective students can get a better idea of what the school is really like. The College Blog Network directly links users to blogs about campus life written by students of that college. Even YouTube has an Education section with videos of lectures, student interviews, and promotional videos from hundreds of colleges and universities.

3. Practicing Freedom of Speech

In a study done by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 91 percent of high school students who get news and information from social networking agreed with the statement that “people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions.” The study involved 12,090 high school students from all over the nation. A press release by the foundation included comments from students stating that social media makes it easier for them to post their opinions, which in turn gives them more appreciation and willingness to express those opinions in a public setting.

Negative Effects

1. Behavioral Difficulties

A study performed by Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D. of California State University found that teens who frequently use Facebook show more narcissistic tendencies and signs of other psychological disorders, such as antisocial behavior or mania.Frequent overuse of media and technology can also negatively affect the overall health of teens by making them more prone to anxiety and depression. In addition, use of bright screens such as those of computers or smartphones just before going to bed can often lead to sleep deprivation.

2. Cyber bullying

From a single person’s mean comment to a hate group devoted to a specific person, cyber bullying is one of the most dangerous aspects of social networking among high schoolers. Students feel more open to expressing hateful opinions behind the safety and possible anonymity of the Internet, which can allow mean comments and groups to flourish.

3. Distraction

The same study by Dr. Rosen also suggests that social media negatively impacts learning. High school students who checked Facebook at least once during a 15-minute study period had lower academic performance. However, other studies such as this one at Northwestern University have not found a significant connection between social media usage and academic performance.

The impact of social media on high school students can be positive or negative, depending on how a student uses its capabilities. If a student simply wastes time reading one status update after another, he or she will probably not have as much time to devote to homework, nor the attention span to do so. However, high school students can also use social media positively to connect with fellow students, teachers, and prospective colleges and explore the wealth of educational information and diverse opinions shared on the World Wide Web.

Ariel Stevenshold a Masters Degree in Social Work and writes about various topics related to our Social Society. She is the owner of the site Masters Degree In Social Work.