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The Effects Of Social Media On Children’s Literacy

We’re told that social media is damaging children’s literacy. This isn’t quite so, as with so many other things there will be two effects going on here. Social media will be improving total illiteracy even as it – well, it might be – damaging longer form literacy. Because social media makes basic literacy much more valuable, thus people will be doing more of it.

Heavy use of social media by children has been linked to lower levels of literacy for the first time.

The landmark study by University College London (UCL), based on 11,000 children tracked from their births in 2000, found their time on social media could be detracting from reading and homework, with a potential knock-on effect on their literacy.

Professor Yvonne Kelly, director of UCL’s International Centre for Lifecourse Studies, said the findings suggested a link between “the amount of time young people spend on social media and their levels of literacy”.

Both boys and girls who were heavier users were affected the same. “We looked at whether the more time young people spend on social media, the less time they have for the things that might improve their literacy such as reading for enjoyment and doing homework,” said Professor Kelly.

Well, no, not really.

Start at the extreme. You’re some landless peasant somewhere and the finding, let alone the keeping, of the next 1,000 calories is a toughie. That investment in teaching the kiddies to read ain’t going to be uppermost. Along comes the mobile internet and you’re connected to the world further than 3 miles out for the first time in millennia. Something which requires a basic form of literacy to use and which is of great, massive, value. You’re going to acquire basic literacy aren’t you? And the babbie playing with the cool screen is too, by osmosis.

Great, social media will increase literacy.

Sure, at the other end, getting fun stuff in bite sized pieces of Gr8!, Lol and Stormzysdewun isn’t going to prepare all that much for traipsing through War and Peace. But that’s rather more trivial than that effect at the first end, isn’t it? It’s even possible that fewer people reading War and Peace would be a net benefit.

Oh, and one thing we really should point out. Social media is rather the written word, isn’t it? Thus the use of it is the deployment of literacy. It may well be that different sort, in an argot not amenable to university professors, but it is still literacy….

Economics works – social media makes basic literacy more valuable so more people will have it.

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Bloke on M4
Bloke on M4
5 years ago

“Figures from the millennium cohort study, which tracked children born in 2000 at ages nine months, three, five, seven, 11 and 14, found that by their teenage years children were far more likely to spend time on social media or video games after school than doing homework or reading books.” That’s a really bad study methodology then. The reality is that kids, in their teenage years, become more sociable, and particularly outside the home than inside. 30 years ago you could have said the same things about kids sneaking out to go hang out at the shops with their friends,… Read more »

5 years ago
Reply to  Bloke on M4

Well, the lede didn’t say it was a rigorous study, just that it was a pathbreaking study, the first of its kind. This methodology is about as useless as the “studies” of how few men-on-the-street know the civics that I would prefer they knew. (Compared to what?!) Snooker halls? Why, 60 years ago, a man drifted into town and declared “Trouble, with a capital T, that rhymes with P, that stands for Pool!” The vapid but heartstring-tugging claim of social crisis caught on in this Broadway musical because it was realistic, it reflected a widespread worry of the day. There… Read more »

5 years ago

Well, 35+ years ago I was spending less time on homework than I was interacting socially with those around me. Off the top of my head I was spending about one hour an evening on homework, I was spending much much much more than one hour a day interacting with my social groups. Dmmit, I was spending more time asleep than I was doing homework.

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