Is TikTok Tanking Your Student’s GPA?
Whether it’s TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, or any other screen-based distraction, chances are that your student is unknowingly self-sabotaging their learning and retention. We know from studies like this one that multitasking during lectures decreases your ability to memorize and retain information. Similarly, we all know that texting and driving takes our attention off the road and causes more accidents, right? Despite KNOWING these things, however, deep down, most of us honestly think we can handle multitasking as we answer emails or texts during meetings or drive our cars. Let me say here that what’s true for our students is true for us parents- simply substitute “meetings” for classes, and co-workers/speakers/bosses for teachers.
The transition to screen-based education during the pandemic meant that teachers could no longer easily see what students were doing. This freedom has led to now ingrained habits of prolonged social media perusal and other computer-based tasks (answering emails, shopping, etc.) during class, whether those classes are in person or online. Clearly the more you divide your attention, the less you will retain from each point of focus. Can you learn “enough” while multitasking? Maybe- but know that you are not operating at your optimal capacity.
How can we fix this problem without eliminating social media all together?
Step 1: Start scheduling your social media time. Decide what you think is a reasonable time limit per day, and then divide that up into short breaks. I suggest shooting for ten-minute social media sessions three or four times/day, maybe after meals and class periods. Recognize that these social media sites strategically have no set end point, offering you more “suggested reels” or images when you start to tire of your feed. While games are similarly addictive, they at least typically have levels or limited “lives” that you can use as an endpoint (if you avoid the temptation of extending “just one more level.” ) Ultimately, most of us get sucked right into our screens and spend far more time than we intend or even realize. Setting intentional, specific social media breaks and using an alarm to define the endpoint.
Step 2: When you have class, commit to it 100%, whether in person or online. Set your laptop to “do not disturb” for the duration of the class, put your phone on DND and then PUT IT OUT OF SIGHT in your backpack, and place your apple watch on DND as well. Exit out of EVERY SINGLE other tab and only have open your zoom or class PowerPoint. Bring an actual spiral notebook or other paper journal and take notes on that (or if you have an iPad or other tablet that you take notes on, exit out of every other tab before you use that as a notepad.)
Step 3: Make study time a do not disturb zone. Set your laptop/phone/watch/tablet on DND for at least an hour when you begin to study. Better yet, do this AND grab a study partner to have more active engagement with the material. Literally quiz each other out loud as you review your professor’s power point. On each slide, critically look at the information and then take turns asking each other whatever question you think your teacher would most likely create as a discussion point or test question.
Step 4: If you sincerely don’t think your social media consumption is affecting your focus or study habits, take one day and simply measure the time you are actually spending on social media- you may be significantly surprised. Then, the next day, commit to 100% non-distracted attention in your classes and see if it makes a difference in how you feel about your comprehension/retention of the lecture material.
Bottom Line: If you are multitasking, you are ABSOLUTELY not learning and retaining information anywhere near full capacity. Distracted learning is both inefficient and mentally exhausting (this is a major part of zoom fatigue.). If your grades are perfect, rock on. But…if you’re finding it more difficult to excel in the classroom, look first at the distractions pulling your focus away from your teachers and/or your study environment.