How Facebook is Mucking Our Kids’ Minds

By , August 8, 2011

With a new school year comes a new spate of warnings about how the internet is warping our kids.

Today’s example: “What Facebook Does to Kids’ Brains” (Rebecca Greenfield, The Atlantic Wire, Aug. 2011), which cites: “Social Networking’s Good and Bad Impacts on Kids” (American Psychological Association press release, Aug. 2011), which cites a conference presentation by Larry Rosen titled, “Poke Me: How Social Networks Can Both Help and Harm Our Kids.”

Note that this is a different set of concerns than the many articles asserting that “Google is changing our brains, so that we store fewer facts” (see the list of article links below).

There are some interesting ideas in the article and press release, including some good ideas and some questionable ideas, but I think it’s reasonable for educators to consider how “the internet” (as well as specific web sites that suck up so much of our kids’ time) might be changing how our children learn — not just facts and curriculum, but social skills, critical thinking skills, and more.

As I write this, I realize that I don’t have a clear purpose for writing this blog post, other than to share some of these interesting links. Does that mean I’m being narcissistic? That my thinking has become more superficial? Hmm. (Read the article above to understand why this might be interesting.)

On the simplest level, Facebook is making its way into our classrooms, in the form of specific lesson plans and “book report options” that encourage students to create a fictitious “Facebook profile page” (not actually posted on Facebook) for a fictional character, as a way of demonstrating their understanding of a novel. Try searching for “Facebook” while viewing the experimental page “Activities for Any Novel,”or try entering one of these phrases on TeachersPayTeachers (a site where teachers share or sell lesson plans): facebook character (4,000 matches); facebook profile (912 matches); or facebook novel (730 matches).

Why do teachers assign a “Facebook character profile,” either as an assignment for all students or as an option for responding to novels? Quite simply, because it’s a form of writing (communication) that many students understand quite well, and students can more easily conceive of the “audience and purpose” for this assignment than for many other types of “book reports.”

Should teachers be encouraging students to use Facebook as a model for writing and communication? It seems reasonable, since so many children are active on Facebook. Should we think about the impact that Facebook may be having on our children’s psychological and educational health? Sure.

As I wrote before, I’m not sure why I’m posting this to my blog. If you’ve got an interesting idea about that, post a comment (below).


Here’s a quick list of articles on the broader topic of, “how the internet is changing our brains”:

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