Online social networking sites have changed the way people interact and communicate. Most students who are members to these online networking sites spend numerous hours on these sites at the expense of study time. This research paper looked at the impact of online social networking sites on academic performance among high school students in urban areas. The study focused on three respondents i.e. students, parents and teachers and used questionnaire and interviews as tools of study. The findings of this study shed insight on how students use online social networking sites, the time spent and the kind of information sought. The study also provides recommendations on how online networking can be used in order to improve academic purposes.
Internet has changed the way people interact. Communication and access to information has been made easier. Use of internet is now not only about communication through emails but is also a platform on which people interact. Today it is possible to attend a classroom being taught abroad while seated somewhere in rural Kenya or give evidence directly to an international court in real time with no need to travel, thanks to internet. Sunitha and Narayan (2010) observe that internet is now more about blogs, podcasts, Facebook, and Twitter – tools and technology also called social networking sites a recent phenomenon. Social network sites are the web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system (Boyd and Ellison, 2007).
Most of the members to these social networking sites are young people who are still in school. Al-Rahma and Othman (2013) inform that there is no doubt that social media has gained wider acceptability and usability and is also becoming the most important communication tools among students. A large percentage of teenagers in Kenya spend their time online either using smartphones or their computers and other handheld gadgets such as ipads and tablets browsing these social networking sites. Students in all levels of education seize every opportunity they get to access social networking sites to check on status on Facebook and what is trending on Twitter. Teenagers have learnt to multitask as they switch from one SNS to another.
When releasing 2013 KCSE results, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education Science and Technology Professor Jacob Kaimenyi pointed out that one of the causes of poor performance in languages is electronic communication devices such as mobile phones and computers due to ‗spell checking‘ and ‗predictive text‘ capabilities. Research has shown that social media is negatively associated with academic performance of students. According to Karpinski (2009), Facebook users often devoted lesser time to their studies in comparison to non-usersdid and subsequently had lower GPAs.
Therefore as more teenagers rush to join and continue using SNS the question that comes to mind is, are these SNS having an impact on their academic performance or not. This study intends to find out the impacts of online social networking sites on academic performance of students in high schools.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Technology has changed the way people interact. Internet is now easily accessible using mobile phones costing as cheap as Kshs. 1,000. According to CCK 2011/2012 sector report the use of internet in Kenya has been on the rising trend with figures showing that 44.12 percent of the population has access to the internet with majority accessing internet through mobile phones. The report also acknowledges that there has been an increase in Kenyan internet users by 95.63 percent in the year 2011 to 2012.
Service providers have also helped provide easy access to internet by going a step further to provide special offers in order for people to access internet. For instance Kenyan Safaricom has recently launched a new subscription internet bundle allowing subscribers‘ access to Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook for Kshs. 10 a day.
Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore observed that the youth have really been behind the increasing demand for data to support their preferred communication channels. These preferred communication channels are the Social Networking Sites (SNS).
Teenagers are among the most avid users of technology in general and social network sites in particular (Lenhart, Madden, Macgill & Smith (2007b). Recent reports find that youth spend nearly 10 hours per day using some form of technology with socially networked media playing a large role in their daily lives (Rideout, Foehr & Robert 2010).
Neelamalar & Chitra (2009), state that members of social sites can easily form groups (called communities) and share their opinions among themselves through discussions threads, forums and polls. On their research on the impact of social network on Indian youth they found out that 95% who are members in one or more social networking sites spend varying amount of time from less than an hour to five hours every day in social networking sites. They also found out that 95% of the youth find the social networking sites as a platform for reconnecting with lost friends, maintaining existing relationships and sharing knowledge, ideas and opinions.
Moreno & Kelb (2012) observed that for adolescents social networking sites are an important medium for self-expression, communication with friends and peer feedback. They further assert that 22% of teenagers log on to their favorite social networking sites more than ten times a day. Studies have shown that adolescents often believe social networking sites reference to be accurate which may influence their own perception and actions (Moreno & Kelb: 2012)
Sunitha and Narayan (2010) observe that social networking has become part of the daily life experience for an increasing number of people. They also further point out that the rapid adoption of social network sites by teenagers in the United States and in many other countries around the world raises some important questions. Ahn (2010) observes that while teenagers are engaged with technology they are more disengaged from another major component of their lives – school.No one denies that youth use these technologies to communicate with the world, and they do so with high frequency and intensity (Lenhart et al., 2007b).
Most learning institutions have gone a step further and blocked access to SNS through their networks but it is important to acknowledge that students own phones and other gadgets which they can use at home. It is therefore necessary for both educators and parents to recognize the fact that there is high usage of SNS by secondary school students and it is vital to find out what are the effects of these online communities on students‘ academic performance.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Technological shift from analogue to digital has immensely changed the way people communicate in society. It is something that cannot be wished away. Many teenagers have joined and many more are still joining Social Networking Sites (SNS). Sunitha and Narayan (2010) observe that social networking has become part of the daily life experience for increasing number of people. They further raise concerns such as how do these SNS fit into the lives of these teenagers and what they are learning from their participation. Is whatever being learnt and shared on these social networking services for academic purposes?
Lenhart et al, (2007b) note that 85 percent of teens ages 12-17 engage at least occasionally in some form of electronic personal communication, which includes text messaging, sending email or instant messages, or posting comments on social networking sites. Danah Boyd (2007) expresses concern and wonders if these online activities are like face to face friendships, is they different, or complementary? These questions are very important for parents and educators to ask themselves. It is also very important for both the parents and educators to know what type of information their children seek on these sites. A considerable number of educators and children‘s advocates worry that James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, was right when he recently suggested that young Americans‘ electronic communication might be damaging ―the basic unit of human thought – the sentence‖ (Lenhart et al, 2007b).
Social Networking websites content is least monitored and these sites though popular with teenagers, do have many issues such as addiction and even online bullying which can have adverse effects on their academic performance.
Kalra and Manani (2013) argue that excessive use of these sites not only have long lasting effect on psyche of students but also affects the physical, mental and social aspect of life. They further add that sometimes these sites also affect the academic achievement of the students because they don‘t want to leave that particular aura and thus their concentration stands divided. Many students have lost their interest in their studies as they spend most of their time on these sites (Kalra & Manani, 2013). Boyd (2007) states that what started as a hobby for some computer literate people has become a social norm and way of life for people all over the world.
Banquil and Chua (2009) came up with a conclusion that social networking sites do affect one‘s academics adversely and cause a gradual drop of grades of students. They attribute this to the student investing his or her time in social networking sites instead of their studies. It is therefore vital to investigate whether apart from communicating if there is any other role that these social networking sites play in school going teenagers‘ life. It is with the above background that this study sought to find out the effects of social networking sites usage by students in high school on their academic performance. It seeks to find out whether whatever information obtained from these networks by students serves the users for academic purposes.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
1.3.1 Main objective
The main objective of this study is to investigate the impacts of online social networking on student‘s academic performance in high schools in urban areas.
1.3.2 Specific objectives
1. To find out the kind of information high school students seek on online social networking sites.
2. To establish what other purpose, apart from communication, students use social networking sites for.
3. To establish whether online social networking sites are used by students to improve their academic performance.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. What kind of information do high school students seek on the online social networking sites?
2. What other purpose apart from communication do students use social networking sites for?
3. Are online social networking sites used by students to improve their academic performance?
Technology advancement has revolutionized interaction and communication globally. Internet access is now everywhere and this has resulted to easy access to social networking sites. Young people who are also students spend so many hours online and on these social networking sites. Precious time which could have been used to study is spent on the internet and social networking sites. It has been noted that language subjects have already suffered a blow by students having problems in spelling words and consequently affecting their grades in the same as witnessed in the year 2013 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination (KCSE) results. This has been attributed to character limitation in some of the social networking sites such as twitter leading to use of short form way of writing messages which unfortunately students have started using when writing their exams in English and Kiswahili subjects.
Socializing via the internet has become an increasingly important part of young adult life (Gemmill & Peterson, 2006). Social networking sites are popular time consuming activity that has an impact on academic performance. Lei & Zhao (2005) in the research on technology use and student achievement found out that computer use may do more harm than good to student achievement in school. In addition, technology that was found to have a positive impact on academic achievement or technology with educational value was not popular and used less frequently. Most secondary students are techno savvy and are members to several social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and MySpace.
It is assumed that these children now have acquired specific new multi-tasking skills that they are able to apply in learning setting (Kirschner & Karinski, 2010). However they note that most empirical research show that this is not the case finding either that, (1) children do not possess these skills or, (2) that acting in this way negatively affects the processing of information. Extensive internet use leads to multi-tasking which affects concentration.
It is okay then to say that extensive internet use and social networking sites can have an effect on students‘ academic achievement and thus this type of research is therefore warranted.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This research will cover high schools in Westlands sub-county, Nairobi. It will only focus on SNS such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp use by students in high schools. Respondents of this study will be students, teachers in secondary schools and parents.
1.8 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
Limitation of this study will be that students who are going to be covered come from families with different financial backgrounds. They therefore have different capabilities in acquiring technological devices such as laptops, i-pads and even smartphones. Students from well off families have better access to internet and more sophisticated gadgets and thus able to do more online than those from disadvantaged families. This study will be limited to students in high schools in Westlands sub-county in Nairobi.
1.9 ASSUMPTIONS OF THE STUDY
i. High school students in Westlands sub-county use social networking sites.
ii. High school students in Westlands sub-county have access to internet in school and at home.
iii. Students in high schools in Westlands sub-county, Nairobi are active in online social networking sites.