How students (and adults!) can avoid social media distraction

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Social media can be a powerful distraction.

And not only for teenagers.

With online delivery of education proving increasingly popular for students of all ages who are choosing online learning as an education option, or being tutored online to support traditional classes, the distraction can be even more intrusive – and easier to hide from the prying eyes of supervising teachers.

But when it’s time to study, it’s important to focus and avoid the distraction of social media.

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Findings from a recent overseas study revealed 75 per cent of teachers believe students’ abilities to concentrate are affected by social media use. Research from the Reluctant Readers Study (conducted by assessment company GL Education), involving 350 teachers across Australia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, showed that distraction can have long-term educational consequences, with 89 per cent of teachers saying social media has a negative effect on children’s reading habits.

But there is another way…

Here are some tips that might help avoid the bright, shiny social media temptation that can easily lead so many productive intentions astray:

1. Shut down any apps and social media sites – NOW

Seems simple, right? But did you read this and actually do it?

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The reality is that, if you shut down all those tabs when it’s time to join that Teams or Zoom class (or time to allocate some exam-cramming study time), your attention will be solely on your studies – not the latest celebrity gossip, sports results, or influencer updates. (Wait until you read this article first, of course!)

2. Set limits for your smartphone – and stick to them

When did you last check the minutes/hours of daily phone usage on your mobile? You might be surprised. Those minutes are most likely spent scrolling in between (or instead of) activities. Add them up for the week and ask yourself what else you could have done in that same amount of time. Try to reduce it by one-quarter. Then by half. You can do it. Really.

If you need extra support, you can set a daily duration limit for specific apps. And you can even whitelist apps to restrict their use completely.

3. Turn your phone off, or put it out of reach

Simply turning your phone off for set times of the day can make a huge difference. If you’re worried about missing out on some kind of emergency phone call news, leaving your phone under someone else’s watchful eye can be another option – at least until you meet your study goals or complete that overdue assignment.

4. Set yourself a social media schedule

Using a planner or calendar to mark out set times you are allowed to check social media can work for some people who like timetables and rules, but won’t work for everyone.

By adding 10-minute social media check-ins a couple of times a day between key study periods or class times, you can still satisfy your FOMO but also get things done.

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You’ll enjoy having more control of your time and will hopefully focus on greater productivity, while still letting yourself dabble in a little bit of procrastination time.

5. Swap social media time for something else

If you know you regularly spend 30 minutes looking at Youtube videos each day, try limiting that time to just 10 minutes, and use the spare 20 to do something positive and healthy. Maybe a walk if the weather suits, or perhaps a quick workout indoors? A little bit of meditation to help you clear your head and get in the study/work zone could also be helpful – but maybe not if that meditation instruction is coming via an app!

Like any kind of habit (dare we say ‘addiction’?), changing behaviour patterns can be difficult. But you can do it. And even if you trim social media distraction from your life by just a few minutes a day, it’s a step in a positive direction.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]