Has your school thought about banning mobile phones for students? Some countries have, and it’s easy to see why: some studies have found that it can improve student performance, especially for struggling students.
But it’s not always that easy. With mobile phones being such an integral part of their lives, it's easy for students to get caught up in constant connectivity, and to think that they need to have their phone nearby at all times. But is it always a good thing? What if they're spending too much time on their phones?
In this blog, we'll look at why it is important for you to encourage your students to put their phones away and focus on what truly matters. We will explore:
- How phone usage can impair student concentration
- How FOMO influences student phone habits
- The effect of phone usage on student memory
- The distortion of reality caused by phone use
- How phones can impact student anxiety
- How discouraging phone use can improve student sleep
Phones can lower student concentration
Excessive mobile phone use leads to poor concentration. Studies have shown that having their phones out while studying can reduce students’ concentration by 20%, negatively impacting their learning. Crucially, even if students weren't actively using their phone, simply having it within their line of sight distracted them.
Try encouraging your students to keep their phones away from their study area to improve focus. For example, you could suggest they place their phones in a different room or in a designated space where it is out of sight and reach.
FOMO influences students’ phone habits
Many students experience Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), and it seems like the rise of mobile phones and social media have only intensified this feeling. This compulsive need to know what others are doing can lead to lower overall mood, increased anxiety and a higher likelihood of checking phones during lessons or study time.
To help students overcome FOMO, there are two effective strategies you can suggest:
- Guide them to shift their focus to the present moment. Encourage them to embrace the here and now rather than constantly wondering about what’s happening elsewhere.
- Steer them clear of multi-tasking. While it might give the illusion of increased productivity, juggling multiple tasks can actually hinder their focus and the amount of information they can absorb. By dedicating their attention to one task at a time, not only will their efficiency improve, but they'll also enjoy each activity without feeling rushed or anxious.
The effect of phones on student memory
Phone messages and notifications disrupt tasks like studying, causing information to be forgotten. This is because distractions can lead to cognitive overload, hindering the transfer of information from working memory to long-term memory. This, in turn, prevents students from learning and ultimately remembering crucial information.
This would explain why participants in one study who used mobile phones excessively had slower response times in memory tasks. While the effect sizes in this study are relatively small, it's still crucial for educators and parents/guardians to be aware of and limit phone use during study periods.
Phone use can distort reality
Ever wondered if what you see on social media is an accurate representation of reality? The truth is that people often portray themselves as happier or wiser than they truly are, which can lead students to compare their lives to these false realities. Such comparisons can be stressful, promote a fear of failure, and even exacerbate FOMO.
Helping your students combat this issue starts with reminding them that these comparisons might be unrealistic, as they only see partial glimpses of other people’s lives. Therefore, comparing themselves based on potentially inaccurate assumptions and unfair standards can be unhelpful. Encourage them to take online posts with a grain of salt and remind them that everyone's journey is different.
Phones can heighten student anxiety
Excessive use of mobile phones has been linked to poor psychological health, including increased anxiety, feelings of loneliness, and low self-esteem. Reliance on their mobile phone can also make students feel annoyed, frustrated and impatient when they can’t use it.
To maintain a healthy balance, it's essential for students to limit their screen time. Constant scrolling releases dopamine, the "feel-good" hormone, providing quick but temporary pleasure. However, excessive use can deplete their dopamine levels, leading to stress and irritability when they're not on their phone. By encouraging them to take consistent breaks from their device, it gives their dopamine levels a chance to replenish.
Phones can harm students’ sleep quality and quantity
Did you know that a mere 20 minutes on a phone before bedtime can significantly disrupt both the quality and duration of sleep? The bright backlight on phones is to blame – it plays a crucial role in delaying the release of the sleep hormone, melatonin, effectively keeping students awake for an extended period. And there's more: those apps on their phone are masterfully designed to keep them emotionally engaged, leading to increased arousal and making it even more challenging to drift off to sleep.
You can guide your students to improve their sleep hygiene by encouraging them to:
- Have a regular sleep schedule
- Exercise a couple of hours before bedtime
- Take a hot bath in the evening
- Use an alarm clock so they don’t have an excuse to go on their phone at night
- If all else fails, use a built-in blue light filter and lower the brightness of their phone’s screen at night
While mobile phones have undeniably transformed the way our students communicate, learn and access information, it's crucial to understand the potential drawbacks of excessive phone usage.
As educators, we can guide our students to balance their phone use with activities that promote mental, emotional, and physical health, thereby enhancing their overall well-being and academic performance. Remember: moderation is key and fostering a balanced relationship with technology can significantly improve your students' quality of life.
So, the next time you notice your students reaching for their phones, consider these six reasons to encourage them to disconnect and enjoy the benefits of being present in the moment. For more information on phone addiction and practical tips to overcome it, check out our handy guide to mobile phone management.