Cellphones with internet access and more advanced capabilities, also known as smartphones, have quickly become the centerpiece in many people’s lives. While this technology has helped connect countless individuals with others and sources of information across the world, many critics and studies cite cellphones as a major contributor to an increasing trend of mental distraction, especially among adolescents in school.
Completely banning the use of cellphones has been shown to positively impact academic performance. In the new 2015 study, “Ill Communication: Technology, Distraction & Student Performance,” conducted by Louis-Philippe Beland and Richard Murphy, the two researchers from the London School of Economics found schools that fully prohibited cellphone use had test scores 6.41 percent higher than schools that did not enforce a ban.
If you can’t beat them, join them
Despite the observed benefits of banning mobile phone usage, this technological trend may be too popular to control. According to a 2010 report from the Pew Research Center, 75 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds owned a cellphone, which was a 45 percent increase from 2004. More intriguing data included how school-based authorities negatively viewed cellphone use and how students have responded to these restrictions.
For example, 62 percent of all surveyed students went to schools that allowed phones on campus, but prohibited use during class, while another 24 percent attended schools that fully banned cellular phones. Despite these trends, 65 percent of teens who attended these phone-banning institutions brought their digital device to campus every day and 58 percent sent text messages during class. Overall, simply restricting communication privileges did not reduce the frequency of phone use by students.
Due to this overwhelming prevalence and integration into teens’ daily schedules, many schools have adopted more tolerant views toward technological gadgets. This past March, the country’s largest school district of New York City lifted its 2006 ban on cellphones. Liz Kolb, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Education added that almost 70 percent of schools that previously banned cellphone privileges reversed the rules. Kolb said, “Part of it is because it’s hard to fight the tidal wave and there are so many students with cellphones. The second part is that they’re really seeing them as a learning tool, not just a toy for entertainment.”
This train of thought is supported by a number of experts, including renowned education writer, Marc Prensky, who popularized the term “digital native” in reference to the newest generation of people who have grown up with advanced technology and media for their entire lives. In his 2005 piece, “Listen to the Natives,” Prensky proposed that educators must adapt to available innovations if they want to continue engaging and motivating their students. Since these students have used devices since they were toddlers, he explained that, “Educating or evaluating students without these tools makes no more sense to them than educating or evaluating a plumber without his or her wrench.”
By examining available research and real world examples, it is evident that the seemingly infinite possibilities that cellphones provide can also be crippling for our nation’s youth if not utilized correctly. If cellphones remain just a distraction, many teens may continue struggling in school, which can also lead to other troubling behaviors. Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego is a specialized facility that can help teens deal with these related problems, from mental health to substance abuse. For more information, please call us at any time.
Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer