I’m not a kid any more (unless you’re being very charitable with your age guidelines), but I can only assume today’s parents are telling their kids “Facebook will rot yer brains”. In fact, the opposite might be true, according to a teeny, tiny little study from England. Especially for kids with dyslexia.
Yes, Owen Barden of the Centre for Culture & Disability Studies at Liverpool Hope University recently published a paper that says, contrary to what you might assume, that Facebook use can actually help kids who struggle with dyslexia overcome their literary challenges in a number of ways. Sounds strange, right? The entirely text-based format of Facebook (and most other social media) would seem like a hurdle for a kid who has trouble with reading and writing.
But as Barden explains in his research paper, children with reading difficulties actually flock toward Facebook’s text-based format:
Because dyslexia usually is defined in terms of significant difficulties with literacy, we might reasonably anticipate that the participants would see Facebook as stigmatising rather than levelling the playing field, because of the very public literacy events that it demands. However, the data indicate that far from shying away from Facebook because of fear of their difficulties with literacy being exposed, the participants enthusiastically embraced it. The students saw Facebook as a desirable presence in their education, one that supported inclusion.
In other words, compared to more rigorous venues like the classroom, kids feel less intimidated by reading or writing on Facebook. Cool!
Barden observed five areas of improvement among students who used Facebook: keeping track of deadlines; increased awareness and feeling of control over the learning process; better control of reading and writing rules; and the feeling that Facebook provides a platform to give and receive help when needed.
Caveat time: as mentioned above, this was an exceedingly small study — just a gathering of students from a single school in England. This study doesn’t look into the impact of home life, socio-economic status, or any of a plethora of other contributing factors.
Still, it’s fascinating to think that Facebook might actually be benefiting students with learning challenges. Even if it’s simply serving as a neutral, un-intimidating platform for kids to get practice reading and writing goofy status updates, maybe that’s enough benefit to justify kids using Facebook (in moderation).