At a time when access to technologies and the Internet makes it possible to absorb all and any type of information, social networks prove to be pedagogical allies for students.
A study carried out by Universidade Portucalense on about 300 university students reveals that 99.6% of students have daily access to the internet through a mobile device. The most popular social network among students is Instagram, used by 95.2% of respondents.
The students reported that the majority (98.2%) access this network every day, with 95.2% having a personal account on this social network. In addition to their personal and public account, 25.7% replied that they have a “secondary account”, in which they share information only with their closest friends.
In terms of their use, 91.5% of participating students share photos of themselves, 52.5% share photos of their friends, and 30.5% share photos of their family. Half of the participants report that they spend more than an hour a day on this social network, with 25% saying that they spend two hours or more a day.
25% of students participating in the study have between 500 and 100 followers on their personal account and 31.3% have more than 1000 followers.
The increasing use of social networks by young people has aroused interest in the scientific community, namely with regard to the impact on their daily lives and their psychological well-being.
In terms of their risks, cases of cyberbullying and access to violent content or social discrimination stand out, which make this population vulnerable. On the other hand, little face-to-face social interaction with family and friends, combined with high time spent on social networks, seems to be associated with higher indicators of loneliness.
However, social networks can also have positive effects: at times when they have less time, possibility, or availability for face-to-face interactions, they resort to social networks to counter their social isolation.
Many young people have the ability to make a balanced and positive use of social networks, using them as a way of expressing their creativity or as a facilitator of their personal face-to-face interactions.
Thus, the use of social networks poses risks and benefits to the development and adjustment of young people.
On the other hand, adherence to social networks by young people also poses challenges for higher education institutions. It becomes increasingly evident and there is a need to rethink pedagogical practices in order to favor teaching and learning dynamics that enhance the use of these means of communication and information sharing as learning opportunities for students.
In addition to the recognized advantages of using these tools, highlighting a greater degree of student autonomy, their motivation and involvement, the development of research skills, problem-solving and critical thinking, the use of mobile devices in the classroom context class also allows increasing students’ attention and interest.
With this constant access to social networks, students can learn both in the classroom and outside, during or after school hours, enhancing formal and informal learning, since there are countless contents available for free on Instagram and Facebook.
Access to social networks is thus a relevant pedagogical ally, which makes it possible for students to develop skills, increase contact with other socio-cultural contexts and develop their critical sense.