Social media usage in church = higher retention?

Social media usage in the came out with an infographic that shows some stats about social media and how it affects students. Usually when reports like this come out, I approach them with a grain of salt because too often it’s a media outlet trying to gain attention, sell something, or displaying their ignorance. The sources used to put this graphic together mostly seem to be people’s blog posts rather than legit neutral research, but it’s still interesting.

A lot of it makes sense and probably confirms what we already suspected, but one stat did jump out to me.

“Grades up half a gradepoint in classes that use Twitter.”

What’s the correlation between using Twitter in class and scoring higher grades? Is it just that the demographic of students who use Twitter are more likely to be more studious and responsible than students who use Facebook? Do student retain more of what’s being taught when they engage their social graph with the content that’s being presented? Is it a positive correlation that carries over to church in a way that we should encourage kids to engage in social media during services and youth group?

QUESTION: What’s your take on this?

Is Social Media Ruining Students?

Posted on April 27, 2011

  • penstreaks

    My guess is that using social media brings up the bottom tier of students who would not otherwise engage in the class.

    Or, it could be that those teachers who use social media are more dedicated, better teachers who teach from a student-based perspective rather than teacher-oriented.

    Either way, the cause is probably good teachers engaging students.

    • Yeah, there's a lot of variables we don't know here. We're making the assumption that engaging in social media is the common denominator, but it might not be.

  • David

    Kids have social media 7 days a week almost 24 hours a day. Why can't they put it down for 1/2 hour to hopefully hear from God?

    • I'm not disagreeing with you, David, but I think the assumption that we can only hear from God with it turned off isn't totally true. I don't hear you saying that it is 100% of the time, though.

      But to answer your question, it's probably the same reason why baby boomers have the same struggle with turning off the TV or putting their work aside.

  • Jimmy M

    I think social media is a good thing but that students shouldn't do it while in worship. I know that the kids using their cell phones to text, tweet, facebook, or otherwise browse the net during church has caused some relationship issues between their generation and the older generations in our church. No matter what they are doing–even if they are reading their Bible on their ipod–they are viewed as distracted and disrespectful. So I think it can really be a problem while they are in the church building. If you want to tweet about the lesson or the sermon after church or between Bible Study and worship by all means go ahead but put it away while you are in Bible Study and worship!

    • Good points, Jimmy. Personally, I don't think decisions like this should be based on the appearance it presents to the older people. I actually haven't used my paper Bible over half a year. The Bible app on my phone is much more easily available, syncs my notes with my computer, lets me flip through passages quicker, has my reading plans in it, and more. Just because older people don't like it shouldn't mean I (or someone like me) couldn't come to your church and use my Bible.

      As far as tweeting something the Holy Spirit just convicted you about during a sermon, I personally don't see a problem with it. In fact, writing it out probably helps me solidify and articulate what I'm thinking. I could do that in the notes section in the bulletin, I suppose, but there's something powerful about sharing what God's doing in your life with a community of other people. Our churches (and most youth groups) don't currently provide that kind of accountability.

      I'm not totally disagreeing with you, just sharing another perspective.

  • Good points, Benjer. Would you argue that the student who retains more in church and youth group has the potential to be a "more discipled" person than the student who doesn't retain as much? In other words, is higher retention an important first-step in the disciple-making process that has benefits that might outweigh the negatives by providing better discipleship opportunities in the future?

    • Higher retention helps…It would be nice if our students who have spent their whole lives in church would know more about the Bible, to be sure.

      I'm no education expert, but I would contend that the kind of learning (retention) Twitter and other social media use support comes at the expense of critical thinking skills. Teachers have said as much when it comes to testing that highlights memorization, but not critical thinking, which is very difficult to test effectively. In addition, there are other ways to improve retention. Just because something "works" in one area doesn't mean it ought to be affirmed across the board.

  • I'm all about social media. (Er, that's what I do for a living!) But I don't allow students to use their phones during teaching time.

    That said, I'm a total hypocrite and use my phone during church. I take notes on Evernote. Use the Bible app. And if someone is yacking too long with their announcements or a story about their kid… peace out!

    In my adult small group, we don't have a rule. But no one looks at their phones.

    • Yeah, I actually don't use my phone (outside of the Bible app) during small groups either, maybe because I already feel like there's already that social interaction built-in that I would otherwise be looking for through social media? I'd much rather sit in a small group and discuss than tweet about something any day. But in church and some youth groups, that interaction outlet about the topic/scripture isn't provided, so we feel a need to find it elsewhere?

      • Chris

        To that point – I don't think many of us as youth leaders fully understand the draw that social media has on youth when it comes to socialization. We enjoy social media and use it as a vital tool but our identities are not wrapped up in what is online – at least not to the extent that this generation of students are.

        My main issue with social media is that when students are in a room together socially they are not able to be fully there in that moment because they are so caught up in their digital identities. It is a constant thing to see students unaware of what is going on around them because they have isolated themselves digitally. For many, social media has become a crutch to avoid awkward situations and find social acceptance without having to actually engage in the lives of others.

        In my opinion, helping our kids learn to live in the moment is a vital skill that they will need to be successful and well rounded people.

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