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The relationship between social media and academic performance: the case of high school students in a Nigerian private school.

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This research explores in detail the relationship between social media and academic performance of students, using a case study approach with a sample of 12 Nigerian students. This study was driven by the perception that students immersed themselves in social media activities to the detriment of their academic function. The qualitative data generated from emic accounts of participants revealed three factors that may address the inconsistencies found in previous studies. The first is tied to the longstanding historical and socio-cultural practices of schools that informs curricula definition of academic activities. The traditional definition of academic activity is narrow, and disregards digital natives’ definition of what is considered to be academic activity, thus hindering their performance. Academic performance is a relative concept; if the curriculum defines academic activity in an inclusive way, then there is a positive relationship, but if it excludes learning areas that participants find on social media and consider relevant, there is no relationship. Therefore, the relationship between social media and academic performance depends basically on the philosophy of each school and how they choose to define, interpret and implement academic activities from which academic performance is derived. Secondly, the data revealed that participants regarded a combination of both social media context and academic context as yielding more academic benefit than a single one. However, it is only when the academic instruction supports students’ needs that the academic gap between both contexts is bridged. Thirdly, participants reported that social media enabled them to learn more, know more, think deeper, do more and achieve more, making them more able to adapt their knowledge and be efficient in solving academic problems. A major concept that surfaced in the data is personal effort. Participants all attributed their academic success to hard work, meeting teachers, researching books and social media and that neither social media nor traditional settings on their own contributed to their good grades. This suggests that academic performance depends mainly on an individual student’s mind-set, intrapersonal values, skills and interests. In the game of soccer, the field does not produce goals. Rather, it is the ability of players to collaborate, coordinate, perceive and utilise available spaces to their advantage. The same goes for the relationship between students’ social media usage and their academic performance. This means that the value that students place on their academic activities has a significant influence on how they use social media.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.