A new report finds that South Africa’s students are addicted to social media, however, they believe that it enhances their academic lives and may even help them during exam time.
This was the key finding of the SA High-tech Student 2013 research study, released on Thursday (31 October) by World Wide Worx and Student Brands.
The study, conducted among all universities and colleges across South Africa, included interviews with 1,435 students.
Well over half – 59% – of students said they were addicted to social media. However, only 16% said they were very addicted – while only 18% said they were definitely not addicted.
Instant messaging (IM) has similar appeal to students: 62% said they were addicted, of which 22% said they were highly addicted to the quick fix of quick chat.
As many as 85% of respondents said social media improved their studies, with a similar proportion – 83% – believing it enhanced their social lives.
“For students, social networking and the Internet is not a good or a bad thing in itself, but has become an integral part of their lives,” said Daryl Bartkunsky, managing director of Student Brands, the student marketing specialists.
Facebook is the universal social destination for students, with 96% of respondents using it, while Twitter is used by 70% of respondents. Google+ slots into third place, at 47%, thanks to the pervasive use of Google Apps for student accounts at universities.
Mxit still retains a strong user base, with 39% of respondents reporting they were using it, while LinkedIn claims a 29% share, with finishing students using it for employment prospects.
Instagram and Pinterest, relative newcomers to the social networking environment, respectively attracted 16% and 15% of respondents.
When asked which network they would use if they could only choose one, two thirds – 64% – still cited Facebook. Twitter was in distant second at 16%, followed by Google+ with 7%, Instagram 5%, Mxit 3% and LinkedIn 3%. Only 1% favoured Pinterest.
Other findings include that 68% of students connect to the Internet via smartphones, 61% via laptops or notebook computers, 50% on desktop PCs – largely using universities’ and colleges’ machines – and 20% on tablets.
The trend is driven by some institutions providing laptops and tablets to students, and low-cost financing of devices by student financial services like Eduloan.
In terms of channel of access, 60% use WiFi on campus, 40% use 3G modems, and 39% use mobile data on their phones. However, a total shift to WiFi is expected in the next two years.
“By 2015, all universities are required to be wireless, providing free Internet access for students,” said Bartkunsky.
“Already, three institutions – the Universities of Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town – have stated that all first year students will have to have a tablet or laptop by 2015.”