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Students beware: Your smartphone could be damaging your education

Phone Addiction
It might pay to look up once in a while. Source: Shutterstock.com

The edtech revolution is undeniably here. But as universities invest time and money in integrating technology into the classroom, a problem arises: smartphone use.

Baylor University in the United States found in a study that students are spending an increasing amount of time on their phones, which has the potential to significantly hinder their academic performance. While smartphones can certainly be used for ‘good’ in the classroom, they are more often than not used for ‘evil’. Students are finding it ever-easier to cheat and are becoming more and more distracted.

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A study published in the Journal of Media Education found around 97 percent of college students regularly use their phones in class for non-educational purposes.Texting was hailed as the main offender, with approximately 90 percent of respondents claiming it was their main distraction in class.

The Education Advisory Board (EAB) even claim phones are “more than just a distraction” but actually “an addiction”.

There is even a word for it. Those who are addicted to their phones are nomophobic, and a growing number of students are being diagnosed. According to the Baylor study, 60 percent of college students admit to being nomophobic.

“Cellphones may wind up being an escape mechanism from their classrooms. For some, cellphones in class may provide a way to cheat,” said James Roberts, who led the study.

But the problem is much worse than that. In 2015, Tom Bennett of the UK’s Department of Education opened an inquiry to see how schools could improve students’ behaviour. An investigation into whether students should be prevented from bringing a smartphone into lessons was launched.

It was found that for many nomophobic students, distancing themselves from their phones caused high levels of anxiety. This anxiety could impact their learning even more severely than using their phone.

Researchers at Singapore Management University asked a sample of undergraduates aged 18 to 29 to partake in tests designed to monitor cognitive function. They were tested with or without their phones. The study in Singapore came to the same conclusion as the UK one: it could actually be counter-productive to take phones away from students.

“A blanket restriction on smartphones in school is likely to be more harmful than beneficial,” Andree Hartanto, first author of the study, told The Telegraph.

“Instead of banning smartphones entirely, allowing periodic technology breaks – during which students are allowed to use their smartphones – may lower their anxiety and thus be more effective in helping students regulate smartphone use and overcome their fear of missing out.”

If you are reading this article in a lecture, it may be time to put down the phone… No matter how tempting the articles at the bottom of the page look.

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