I shared this with our upper school faculty today. danah boyd provides insight into why students spend so much time on social network sites, even during class.
When it comes to socializing with friends, youth prefer in-person (unregulated) encounters. They turn to SNSs when they can’t get together with their friends en masse or when they can’t get together without surveilling adults. By and large, there are few free spaces where youth can gather with their friends en masse and, even then, inevitably a chunk of parents refuse to let them, thereby destroying cluster effects. So, of course, they turn to SNSs. School is one of the few times when they can get together with their friends and they use every unscheduled moment to socialize – passing time, when the teacher’s back is turned, lunch, bathroom breaks, etc. They are desperately craving an opportunity to connect with their friends; not surprisingly, their use of anything that enables socialization while at school is deeply desired. This is why they text during classes. They go onto SNSs during the day to write to friends who have different schedules or to write to the whole group if a portion of them are on a different lunch. Given how regulated youth are, any open space where socializing is possible will be taken up by socializing; it’s often the only place they can see their friends. This isn’t something that the schools can fix, but they also shouldn’t be surprised when group time turns into gossip time.