How excessive cellphone use could be hurting students

More than just a distraction—an addiction

A new study finds that college students are spending an increasing number of hours on their cellphones, threatening their academic performance, the Times Colonist reports.

The study, conducted at Baylor University in Texas, collected online surveys from 164 students to determine their cellphone usage habits. On a daily basis, the researchers found students spent an average of:

  • 94.6 minutes texting;
  • 48.5 minutes on email;
  • 38.6 minutes on Facebook; and
  • 34.4 minutes surfing the web.

James Roberts, a marketing professor at Baylor who led the study, says he was astounded at the level of reported cellphone use. "As cellphone functions increase, addictions to this seemingly indispensable piece of technology become an increasingly realistic possibility," he says.

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According to the study, 60% of college students admit being addicted their cell phones, which can lead to personal and academic conflicts. "Cellphones may wind up being an escape mechanism from their classrooms. For some, cellphones in class may provide a way to cheat," says Roberts.

Neal Berger, an addiction consultant, says many of his patients that seek treatment for addictions to alcohol or drugs also use their phones excessively. "There has been a few times where [leaving behind the cellphone] has been a greater source of anxiety than anything else," he says.

Berger worries that providing electronic devices to people at a young age sets them up for addiction. "We have young people whose brains are literally being rewired according to digital technology," he argues.

Finding a balance

Sybil Harrison, director of learning services at Camosun College, says she has seen the effects of excessive cellphone use. "Last year, we had three students fall down the stairs because they were texting at the same time," she notes.

However, Harrison says, there is "a whole spectrum of tolerance and acceptance of cellphones." For example, she says bringing Twitter into the classroom can help engage students. "And to be fair, there have always been students who sit in classrooms and are completely disengaged," she adds (Watts, Times Colonist, 12/15; Baylor University release, 8/27).


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