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.