How the Use of Social Media Correlates With Academic Achievement

September 5, 2019

You look into a classroom, it’s break time, and the teacher has allowed the students to use their phones. Everybody pulls it out of their backpacks, and stares intently at the glowing screen, checking for notifications, validations, and phone vibrations. The fact that 44% of our generation checks social media every hour starts the debate on whether or not social media negatively affects our academics and our lifestyles.

Some people might argue that social media helps you connect with friends, club members and keeps you updated on events. Additionally, it is a great benefit for students in International Schools as many of our friends end up spread across the world over time. Kate McArthur (12) said that social media helps for “building community and spirit and spreading the word about events” but also added that “it can be distracting at times,” emphasizing that even those who have social media can see it’s negative effects. 

Professor Markus Appel, a psychologist in Germany, led a team to research the effects of social media on academics. He found that those who use social media while studying have worse grades than those who use social media exclusively for educational purposes. Mr. Alexander, the High School Principal, has also voiced that select  “students tend to be obsessed with their phones and want to be ‘connected’ with their friends at all hours of the day” which can ultimately “affect their academics”. Social media, especially the notifications, distracts students from their academics. Mr. Sweeney, a High School teacher stated that “for many students, social media is a fairly constant distraction that might be preventing them from staying focused on their learning.” 

Mr. Vaughan the High School Dean of Students, visits with students every day about their learning capabilities and hindrances. He shared that, “When I sit and talk with a student who is missing classwork or behind with work, we often check their screen-time. Almost always there is an extraordinary amount of time on social media.” This links to how social media might take away time for academics, and negatively affect students’ grades and performances in class. 

Social media has influenced students’ brains as well, according to a study at UCLA. It was shown that  “when teens learn that their own pictures have supposedly received a lot of likes, they show significantly greater activation in parts of the brain’s reward circuitry”. This means that adolescents might constantly check their social media platforms for gratification and validation as a person from likes, or views. Emily Merritt (11) admitted that she “used to have a big problem with the notifications and ‘instant gratification’ of social media”. With frequently checking your phone, students might become addicted “which would have to affect the quality of [their] work” Mr. Duffy, an English teacher in the High School adds. 

Not only do social media platforms like Instagram, and Snapchat affect our academics, they can affect our face to face social life. Mrs. McMillan, the High School Dean of Academics, stated that “All of us, in general, spend so much more time on our devices these days and rely on them for many things. But I do feel social skills have suffered as a consequence.” illuminating how social media doesn’t just affect our academics, but as well as our lifestyles and social interactions. Some might think social media helps being social and meeting others, however Mrs. McRobbie, a Health teacher in the high school articulated, “The high use of social media affects the time spent socializing in person with others. This reduces student’s communication skills and confidence in meeting others face to face.”

If you do feel that social media may be affecting the quality of your work, here are some things you can consider doing to improve your academics. 

  1. Giving your phone to someone else, such as a parent, can make sure you’re not distracted while studying or doing your homework. 
  2. If you’re uncomfortable with giving your phone away, an easy way is to silence your notifications, or ‘power off’ your phone so as to not check it often. 
  3. Another good solution that can block certain sites, is the feature ‘screen time’ on Apple phones. With this, you can monitor your usage and put time limits on certain apps.


Despite the research showing the negative effects of social media on academics, social media is here to stay and will only get more advanced. Mr. Alexander stated that “we need to be thoughtful about ISB students’ reliance on social media and be ready to support them to ensure that it does not hinder their learning.” Because of this, ISB has expanded it’s social media platforms to Instagram and Facebook as well as Twitter in the foreseeable future.

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