Technology has become part of our everyday lives. Even before the pandemic forced us all to stay home, research showed that people checked their phones over 80 times a day with students checking their phone, on average, every 8.6 minutes.
However, because of the pandemic, our phone usage has skyrocketed, whether it’s keeping up to date with the latest Covid news, distance learning, FaceTiming friends or scrolling through social media. Lockdown and isolation from others have only made students’ Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) even worse, as social media is the only way to keep up to date with what their peers are doing.
This increased screen time is particularly worrying: a survey conducted by the Fight for Sight charity organisation found that 50% of students in the UK felt that their eyesight had been negatively affected as a result. Other negative implications of excessive mobile phone use include:
- Poorer academic performance
- Lowered concentration
- Increased stress and anxiety levels
- Poorer sleep quality
- Reduced memory
With stress and anxiety levels already heightened by the pandemic and reports highlighting the detrimental impact it has had on student’s academic performance, students should consider a smartphone “detox” as they acclimatise back to a normal school environment. But how can we help them do it?
How to manage mobile phone use after lockdown
As 60% of students report feeling very agitated when they’re unable to access their phone, any strategy to reduce their phone usage must be realistic and easily implementable. At InnerDrive, we’ve come up with 4 different strategies teachers, parents and guardians can encourage students to use to combat excessive smartphone use at home.
Put your phone away
After relying on their devices to get themselves through lockdown, purposefully putting them away is going to feel like a challenge for many students - but it’s for their own benefit.
In terms of revision, one research paper suggests that students who revise with their phones next to them perform 20% worse than their peers who put their phones out of sight (it is worth noting that the researchers from this study didn’t replicate the same impact in a subsequent study, though still strongly advise students not to be on the phones too much due to other possible negative consequences). As a result, students should be encouraged to put their phone away when completing homework or revision, so their academic performance isn’t negatively affected.
If students feel they lack the self-control to not check their phone, they can ask an adult to look after it for them. Alternatively, students can download apps such as the ‘Forest’ App, which incentivise them not to touch their phone for a set period of time. Students should also set themselves designated phone-free time and either keep themselves busy with other activities like exercise or allow themselves to be bored for a while.
Check your phone less regularly
Another way students can manage their phone use is to put a conscious effort into checking it less regularly. Research shows that people check their phones over 80 times a day – a figure that has likely increased during lockdown. Since being on their phone is almost second nature to them, it’s likely students are underestimating how much the pandemic has negatively influenced their phone habits.
Luckily, there is a wide range of apps that can help with this. One of the most well-known versions of these apps is called Mute which records how long students spend on their phone and how many times they pick up their phone. We’re sure that many students will be in for a shock. Other apps such as Offtime or Freedom go a step further by blocking students from using their phone for the designated time they set. These apps may be more useful for students who feel they lack the willpower to not check their phone.
For students who are tempted by the mere sight of their phone, make sure they’re not carrying their phone around everywhere. Taking your phone to the toilet, something that 47% of teenagers report doing, is not essential. Don’t be afraid to leave your phone in another room for another hour and focus on what you’re meant to be doing than what other people are doing. We promise you’re not going to miss much if you put your phone aside for an hour or two.
Lockdown has likely made everyone quite sensitive to the sound of notifications as for many, it was their only way of fighting boredom and keeping in touch with the outside world. If students feel this accurately describes them, then changing their notification settings so they’re only notified about specific things at specific times is another great way of reducing their temptation to check their phone. How?
Encourage students to use Do Not Disturb mode or Airplane Mode so students aren’t distracted by notifications flashing up on their screen. Students will benefit from this strategy in the long run by creating the mindset that notifications don’t always require immediate attention.
Turn down the backlight
Although the ideal scenario would be for students not to take their phone to bed with them, the reality is many students do. Research shows that students who use their phone in the hour before bed are almost three times as likely to sleep less than five hours, despite the optimum sleep time for students being 8-10 hours.
This is because the bright light emitted from our phones makes our body think that it’s daytime. As a result, we produce less melatonin– the sleep hormone. Simply by turning down the backlight at least two hours before going to sleep, melatonin production won’t be suppressed as much, and students will have better quality sleep. This is important as poor sleep habits can negatively impact student well-being – something that has already been hit hard by the pandemic. If students are going to get through the next few months, they need to be practising good habits.
As excessive phone usage can have profound negative effects on student achievement and well-being, it’s essential that students are provided with strategies that can help manage their phone time better. The Covid-19 pandemic has already impacted students enough. The only way they’re going to get through the tough times ahead is to practice good habits.