In a highly globalized and digitized world, modern youth use technologies as their primary means of communication. From texting to chatting and from online gaming to making posts on various digital platforms, a large bulk of communication is done online. Importantly, social media, which represent web-based and mobile services, have become detrimental to the youth to build connections, monitor each other’s lives, create texts, videos, audios, and photos. Researchers have explored the ongoing use of instant messaging and other forms of online communication in terms of their influence on academic achievement.
Studying the academic effects of instant messaging among young people is a fruitful area of research because it could illustrate whether the habit can be classified as either overall conducive to education attainment or not. Besides, the implications of research in this area could be used for exploring the social influences of technologies and those in higher education administration. While instant messaging and continuous online engagement among young people is detrimental to their building good relationships, it is expected that they will have lower levels of academic achievement because of failure to complete schoolwork in time and getting distracted (Joshi et al. 101). Besides, the psychological effects of instant messaging should also be considered because of potential social implications, such as young people becoming socially inept.
Researchers have been consistently challenged to recognize any drastic changes in how modern young people, such as college students, use information and communication technologies in contrast to the representatives of previous generations that did not have broad access to technologies. Modern college students use the Internet as a means of communication, do their research for school, play games, access entertainment, and engage with online audiences. The previous generations could not necessarily use the full scope of ITs because they were not as advanced. In their study, Junco and Cotten explored the perceived academic effects of instant messaging use because the use of technologies has significantly increased in college students of the latest generations.
Over time, young people’s use of digital technologies and various forms of communication has been changing. According to the findings of the study by the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted in 2010, the use of computers had increased by 27 minutes per day between 2004 and 2009 (Junco and Cotten 370). In the findings, which are pretty dated, 15-18-year-olds used to spend twenty-six minutes a day on social media, seventeen playing online games, fifteen on video websites, and eleven on instant messaging (Junco and Cotten 371). However, as time passed, it was discovered that young people spend much more time online. According to the report by Common Sense Census named Media Use by Tweens and Teens, 34% of tweens and 23% of teens spend around two hours per day with screen media, while 11% of tweens and 26% of teens spend more than eight hours with screens (Common Sense Media). In general, tweens spend approximately four and a half hours a day with screen media, while teenagers waste more than six and a half hours.
Social media was identified as an essential part of the majority of teens’ and tweens’ interactions with the online world, with 45% of the study participants mentioning that they use social media every day (Common Sense Media). The importance of social media in this discussion should not be underestimated because the bulk of direct communication occurs through their means. For example, Junco and Cotten found that in college students, instant messaging takes place around an hour and twenty minutes of each day of active chatting (373). The findings do not guarantee that users sit and stare at their screens, waiting for messages to arrive. They can play games, watch online videos, or scroll through Instagram feeds and text simultaneously. Overall, engagement with technologies is quite distracting to young people, which is why it is expected to affect educational achievement.
It is also notable that the use of social media and instant messaging habits differ among representatives of different genders, minority groups, and socioeconomic statuses. For instance, women have the tendency to use the Internet as a means of communication, while men tend to use it for purposes such as gaming (Junco and Cotten 374). Besides, the representatives of minority groups and lower-income individuals have limited access to technologies compared to their White and higher-socioeconomic status counterparts (Junco and Cotten 374). These findings were also supported by Common Sense Media research that found that teens and tweens from lower-income families had limited access to technologies compared to higher-income teens. This shows that computers, tablets, and phones represent a particular area of privilege, which was also supported by Junco and Cotten (375). The wealthier the young people are, the more likely they are to have abundant resources to use social media platforms and other forms of digital communication as they wish.
Considering the steady increase of social media and other digital means used for instant messaging, it is expected that the economic outcomes of young people using them will also change. There has been no consensus among researchers regarding either a positive or a negative impact of instant messaging on academic outcomes, with findings showing both sides (Junco and Cotten 374). For example, in the latest study by Ashraf et al., the scholars found a positive impact of social media use on the academic performance of students because it can be considered an open-learning tool (1272). This means that abundant interactions that young people have on social media facilitate an exchange of valuable knowledge and insights that they can use for improving academic performance. Junco and Cotten cited studies by Hu and Kuh and by Jones and Madden, both of which illustrated the benefits of using technologies to boost academic outcomes (372). The positive effects entailed improved connections between students and teachers, enhanced cooperation between young people, as well as active learning. Besides, in Jones and Madden’s (2002) research, which was large, around 79% of students thought that the Internet had a good impact on their learning. Therefore, the positive perspective is that technologies, including instant messaging, increase the capacity to boost student engagement, which is a good predictor of academic success.
On the downside, the excessive use of digital media and instant messaging can have a negative impact on the academic achievement of students. In their systematic literature review, Junco and Cotten discussed research showing that students’ grades suffered as a result of too much time spent online (373). This problem is especially relevant due to the growing psychological dependence of young people on the Internet (Dong et al.). Compared to non-dependent groups, four times as many individuals in the Internet-dependent group reported Internet-associated intellectual impairment. Besides, the sample of students who experienced a decline in their schoolwork progress due to digital technologies said that their use of the Internet was at rates more than double of the sample as a whole. Besides, using the Internet for coping purposes was associated with increased levels of depression, which can influence cognitive processing and, thus, educational outcomes.
While the findings of the research show that the effects of social media and other technologies’ use can be either positive or negative, and even both, little is known about how the specific types of technologies can be implicated in academic success or failure. Nevertheless, Junco and Cotten suggest that instant messaging has been and remains an integral part of the daily life of many students who prefer using the solution to stay in touch with their friends and classmates (3770. It was found that instant messaging is used by around 59% to 75% of college students, with them spending about 16.3 hours a week chatting via instant messaging and only 3.9 hours on using email (Junco and Cotten 377). The issue with instant messaging is that it often occurs when individuals multitask, with students reporting “chatting” with several people simultaneously (Junco and Cotten 377). Such a process is distracting, which is why concerns arise regarding issues with educational attainment.
Importantly, Junco and Cotten found that college students were aware of their divided attention due to instant messaging and other forms of digital media (374). Despite this, they continue communicating online and engage in patterns of behavior that show the dependence of young people on online engagement. It was shown that students could learn less when they hold representations in their working memory and try to engage in learning, such as instant messaging and doing their homework. Thus, students who multitask at higher rates would require more mental world and result in less educational benefit.
On the one hand, for some, multitasking is natural and has no adverse impact on educational attainment, which means that students can freely instant message others and study (May and Elder). For others, on the other hand, excessive exposure to social media and instant messaging is indeed distracting and causes some problems for educational achievement. It should be noted that technologies can potentially support the cognitive engagement of students because it is facilitative of individual sharing and exchange of ideas (Martin and Bolliger 205). Students have the option to engage in more creative opportunities (Tang and Hew). The interactivity of technologies has the potential to enhance just-in-time learning opportunities, connected learning resources, and improve their language use.
To conclude, it is expected that digital communication and various forms of media will continue playing significant parts in young people’s lives. Due to this, technologies and education will remain a package, and the implications of the relationship between the two does not have to be negative. The exploration has shown that educational attainment can indeed be limited by the increased dependence of students on social media because they cause distractions and disruptions to the learning process. However, the same does not apply to all students because learning tendencies can differ from one person to another. In addition, instant messaging can strengthen connections among students and between students and teachers to improve the learning processes.
Ashraf, Muhammad, et al. (2021). “Social Media Improves Students’ Academic Performance: Exploring the Role of Social Media Adoption in the Open Learning Environment Among International Medical Students in China.” Healthcare, vol. 9, no. 10, 2021, pp. 1272.
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