A Student’s Take on Phones in Class [Guest Post-Amber Collegnon]

[Senior Psychology Major Amber Collegnon did her Honors project on the effectives of various Brain Games. Here she provides a student perspective on a faculty peeve.]

It often seems like college professors are lecturing students about putting their phones away just as much as they are about class content. Have you ever wondered if there’s any truth behind these claims? As a student myself, I know that spending over an hour without any social connection can be excruciating and the urge to look at your notifications can be as strong and just as distracting as actually being on your phone.

Based off previous research, students who are not using their phones during a lecture write down 62% more information which could then lead to scoring a letter grade and a half higher than those who use phones. The more students used their phones during lectures, the worse they scored on both multiple choice, short answer, and fill in the blank exams. Students who received eight texts during thirty minutes of lecture could not remember as much information afterwards regarding the lecture. Students who responded to their text immediately instead of waiting retained even less information from the lecture. If students are going to text in class, research suggests waiting for a break in lecture may result in the best retention of class content.

The more students use their phones the more heightened anxiety, the lower their GPA, and the lower rating of life satisfaction and well-being. This can be true of student’s not only using their phones while in class, but also in students who in general use their cell phones more throughout the day. Many will think that these statistics don’t apply to them but in a study where a large variety of other correlating causes to a low GPA were controlled for, GPA was still lower for those who use their phones more often. To quote the study’s results, “These results suggest that given two college students from the same university with the same class standing, same sex, same smoking habits, same belief in their ability to self-regulate their learning and do well academically, and same high school GPA—the student who uses the cell phone more on a daily basis is likely to have a lower GPA than the student who uses the cell phone less.” This means that there seems to be a direct relationship between cell phone usage and student’s GPA across all areas of discipline.

Phones may not only be a distractor in the classroom but also while studying at home. If a student receives and replies to a text message quickly while in the middle of working on an assignment, they may be more tempted to keep playing on their phone. That simple text message could lead to scrolling through various social media sites, playing a quick game, launching into a Netflix episode and then all motivation to continue studying might be lost as students dig deeper into their phones. Even if students don’t get further distracted and strictly respond to a text and then get back to studying, there could very well be enough distraction and interruptions that the actual time spent studying is not quality because students don’t retain the information the same. Researchers observed real students studying and within a fifteen-minute study session, less than six minutes were utilized for actual productive behavior and the rest of the time was spent distracted by various forms of media (i.e. phones, laptops).

Of students who used their phones for 90 minutes or more throughout the day, 76% reported problems remembering things and 92% reported concentration problems. It seems that with the rise in phone usage, students are not able to focus on school work very long. In a study where participants were only being asked to study for fifteen minutes, they got off task two times for a couple of minutes at a time. Frankly, it’s a little sad that fifteen minutes of concentration on school work can be difficult. The average amount of time of working on school work before being distracted and getting off task was six minutes. This could more easily be solved by removing technology from your study area so you aren’t tempted to look at it.

Screen time can not only affect school performance but also physical and emotional well-being. The more time we spend on our phones the less likely we are to be physically active/fit and the less happy we are. However, there does seem to be a happy-medium of one to five hours a week that maximizes happiness while also giving students time to connect with friends via social media. The average screen time of teenagers and young adults is five hours a day and those who were behind screens for twenty hours per week were the least happy of everyone.

Overall, it sounds like students should be listening to their professors and put aside the phones and laptops while in class or even while at home studying and working on homework.

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