When asked about a range of specific academic skills, teachers are much more likely to say entertainment media have hurt rather than helped those skills. (Entertainment media was defined as the TV shows, music, video games, texting, iPods, cell phone games, social networking sites, apps, computer programs, online videos, and websites students use for fun.)
The biggest problem area for teachers is students’ attention span, with 71% saying saying entertainment media use has hurt students either “a lot” (34%) or “somewhat” (37%) in that area.
Another key problem area for teachers is students’ writing skills. Nearly six in 10 (58%) teachers say their students’ use of entertainment media (including texting) has hurt their writing skills “a lot” (19%) or “somewhat” (39%).
Many teachers think students spend so much time with media that they neglect their homework and aren’t prepared in class. Just under half (48%) say entertainment media use has hurt the quality of students’ homework “a lot” (15%) or “somewhat” (33%).
Teachers also say that entertainment media has hurt students “a lot” or “somewhat” in their ability to communicate face to face (59%) and their critical thinking (42%).
There were no statistically significant differences between veteran teachers (more than 15 years of experience) and those who are new to the job (less than 5 years). Nor were there differences between teachers who describe themselves as “tech savvy” and those who admit to being “uncomfortable” with new technologies.
For elementary school students, teachers consider video games (75%), television (61%), and computer games (60%) most problematic. For middle and high school students, teachers pointed most often to texting (81% of middle and 75% of high school teachers) and social networking (73% of middle and 69% of high school teachers).
Independent of any discussion about the role of media, writing is the main subject area in which a majority of teachers rank their students as only “fair” or “poor.” Across schools from all socio-economic levels, writing skills ranked at the bottom of students’ skills, in teachers’ assessments.
More than half (55%) of all teachers rank their students as fair (40%) or poor (15%) at writing.
For all subjects except writing, teachers are more likely to say students have been getting better rather than worse over the years they’ve been teaching; when it came to writing skills, teachers were evenly split as to which direction their students’ skills were heading.
Nearly two-thirds of teachers (63%) say their students’ media use has helped their ability to find information quickly and efficiently, either a lot (21%) or somewhat (41%).
A third (34%) of teachers say using entertainment media has helped their students’ ability to multi-task effectively (3% say “a lot,” 33% “somewhat”), compared to 25% who say it has hurt them.
Teachers who describe themselves as “tech savvy” are more likely than other teachers to see a benefit to students’ creativity from their use of entertainment media. Four in 10 (40%) tech-savvy teachers say media use has helped their students’ creativity, compared to 25% of teachers who are “uncomfortable” with technology. There were no other statis-tically significant differences between these teachers, nor were there differences between long-term (more than 15 years) and new (less than 5 years) teachers.
The biggest problem teachers identified in the survey is media’s impact on students’ sexualization. Two-thirds (67%) of teachers say entertainment media use has had a negative effect on students in this regard, including 26% who say “very negative” and 42% who say “somewhat.”
Other aspects of students’ social development that teachers think entertainment media are negatively affecting include their ideas about relationships between boys and girls (61%), their attitudes toward adults such as parents and teachers (61%), engaging in anti-social behaviors like being mean (60%), their body image (58%), and encouraging aggressive behaviors like hitting or fighting (51%).
Teachers who say they are “uncomfortable” with new technologies are more likely to see negative effects of students’ media use on their social development: 61% say media have a negative effect on aggression, and 51% say the same for the impact on pro-social behaviors (compared to 43% and 30% among “tech savvy” teachers, respectively).
For every type of social development that was asked about in this survey, teachers were more likely to say that entertainment media have had a negative rather than a positive effect on their students. But 17% do say that their students’ media use has a positive effect on their pro-social behaviors. Several teachers commented on how their students’ use of media has broadened their horizons by exposing them to diverse viewpoints and experiences.