A timeline of how social media has been released and become more prevalent in society since the 1990s.
Social media and technology has only become more prevalent in the classroom since the introduction of the internet and the release of countless social media platforms.
BYU German and Russian studies professor Hans-Wilhelm Kelling said he has observed the increase of media negatively impacting his students’ ability to write throughout his 54 years of teaching.
“I think that having access to all of these technical things ruins style,” Kelling said. “I notice that I have to work much harder in my seminars with my students on their papers. They don’t have the experience. They are not prepared or they have forgotten what they (have learned).”
Clark Callahan, associate director for undergraduate studies in the School of Communications, said not all distractions are bad, and devices can be effective teaching tools if professors give students a reason to use their electronic devices in class.
“We just have to realize that going forward, we are going to integrate that connectivity in our classrooms and in our content in some way,” Callahan said. “I think it can be a really good teaching tool if we let it — if we are not afraid to break out of our comfort zones as instructors and embrace it in ways that are pedagogically sound.”
The classroom began with a blackboard and chalk, then a whiteboard and marker, then a TV and VCR and has now transitioned to computers, PowerPoints, videos and projectors, according to broadcast journalism professor Robert Walz. He said there has never been a time in his 16 years of teaching with such great access to up-to-date knowledge and interactive learning.
“In my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the detriments because the ability to learn is much greater now than it ever was before,” Walz said. “If all you want to do is have a lecture, read a book, take a test, there’s not much learning that goes on in that, and there never has been.”
BYU history major Maddy Hunter said she decided to delete all social media apps from her phone so she wouldn’t be tempted to use them during class, but she still gets distracted by students around her.
“When I see other people using it, my eye is instantly drawn to it because of the light from the computer,” Hunter said. “When I’m in class and I’m trying to pay attention, it’s really annoying.”
Maddy’s husband and BYU construction management alumnus Joshua Hunter said an inability to pay attention for long periods of time is a widespread problem.
“Our society is so overstimulated with media that we feel like we have to be doing something, and so if we are getting bored in class, we automatically turn to our phones or computers or tablets,” Joshua said.
Lone Peak High School counselor and BYU business education alumna Lori Nemelka said she has observed this increase of media impacting students’ mental health.
When they become overwhelmed and distracted by other things, they develop anxiety issues and have a hard time focusing,” Nemelka said “(Media) truly is quite a distraction because kids are even thinking about what is showing up on their social media accounts even when they aren’t looking at it.”
Nemelka said teaching students self-awareness in their media consumption is key to their success inside and outside the classroom. She said people who are aware of the effects social media has on their mental health are better able to consciously decide when and how they consume media.