In recent years, constantly being connected to others through smart phones has become a given. All demographics, but especially high school and college aged young adults, have become reliant on their phones to get them through the day. Walk into any class on any given day at Penn State, and you’ll likely see dozens of phones on peoples’ desks. But what impact are these pocket sized computers having on the academic performance of those who use them? One might assume having all the information in the world at your fingertips would make for a smarter, better performing generation. However, the science appears to suggest otherwise.
According to a study from Longwood University, students who used their phones in class performed significantly poorer on exams. Dr. Chris Bjornsen led the study, asking students in all of his classes to fill out short surveys about how often and for what they had used their phones during lectures. The results he found were very strong in pointing to cell phone usage as detrimental to academic performance. He states that the students most affected used their phones for social reasons, such as texting and tweeting, or for gaming. According to Dr. Bjornsen, the average drop in score on an exam for each use of a phone was .6 points for social media and 3.1 for games. However, he did not find any strong evidence that phone usage for taking notes or managing a calendar was lowering test scores. While this evidence is certainly jarring, it must be taken with a grain of salt, as surveys are not always reliable. Students may be dishonest on self-evaluation style surveys, the results may be skewed due to lack of participation, and it is impossible to rule out the possibility of chance as the reason for the findings.
In closing, while it cannot be stated for certain, the results appear to be fairly clear that cell phone usage has severely negative effects on the academic performance of students. Perhaps in the future, we should keep the phones in our backpacks and avoid the temptation and the risk.