Students feel connection through social media, as well as addiction

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 10 2012 9:00 p.m. MDT

In the middle of the girlish, boy-obsessed time of ninth grade, all Marisa Dietz wanted was a cellphone. She wanted to text cute boys and feel included. It was as if every person at school had one, except for her. So, when her mom — who really didn't believe in personal cellphones — finally caved before she turned 16, she could hardly handle it. She even got to go to the store and pick out her first phone, the latest in flip phones at the time.

"It was a big deal," Dietz said. "A life-changing moment."

At a time when it isn't unusual for pre-teens and teens to be seen toting around their own smartphones, iPads and other gadgets, the issue of addiction and serious attachment to smart devices and social media is growing across the entire spectrum of age groups.

Today, 98 percent of college students own a digital device, and 38 percent say they can't go for more than 10 minutes without using one, according to statistics compiled and reported by the Education Database Online. Success and well-being for those pursuing higher education often depends on the technology they have access to, especially as technology changes education at an ever-faster rate.

Education technology

"Everything at BYU-Idaho is online, so if I didn't have this technology I wouldn't be able to do anything," said Dietz, a sophomore studying elementary education. "And now with education, everything is going into technology and you kind of need to know how (to use it) and have the technology to do homework."

For the majority of students, technology is not only necessary to perform everyday tasks but is also a necessity in their studies. Three out of four students say they would not be able to study without technology, and 46 percent say they would be more likely to do reading assignments if they were available digitally, according to the Education Database.

Though the average time a student spends a day emailing is considerably lower — 58.68 minutes a day — than time spent using other forms of media, 91 percent of students say they use email to receive additional help from their teachers outside of the classroom.

The study doesn't show whether extra help sought via email leads to better grades for students. However, "students in classes that use Twitter to increase engagement have been found to average five grade points higher than those in normal classes," the Education Database reported.

It's a double-edged sword, however. As Dietz works on becoming a teacher, she is learning more of the negative affects technology can have in the classroom.

"I've been reading studies on how technology affects you and your schoolwork," Dietz said. "Often technology becomes really unhealthy and distracts from the purpose and work ethic."

Technology addiction

A series of questions was developed by researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway to indicate addiction to Facebook, and they were tested in a study with more than 400 college students, in April of this year. The study indicated that younger users are more likely to be addicted, along with women and those with poor sleep habits.

"We also found that people who are anxious and socially insecure use Facebook more ... probably because those who are anxious find it easier to communicate via social media than face-to-face," Dr. Cecilie Schou Andreassen, the study author and a psychologist at the university, said in a written statement.

A study was conducted in April 2011 with 1,000 students from all over the globe, to study the dependency of media. Each student was asked to give up every type of media for 24 hours and then record their experiences. The study was done by the University of Maryland's International Center for Media & the Public Affairs (ICMPA), and drastic results were discovered.

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