Phones are destructive to student outcomes


Elina Villamure, Staff Writer

I know what you’re thinking: no phones in the school classroom sounds absurd. However, it is safe to say that it would be a small change we could make for huge benefits. The first step to being on the same page regarding no phones is to see the obstruction that having these phones in the classroom does to students. 

There are so many factors that phones go hand in hand with that we might not be aware of. Phones affect our focus and attention span, take away from conversation and uncomfortable conversations, reduce our ability to consume information in the classroom, and have a negative effect on our mental health and self-awareness. These are all ideas that are real that we look past with the thought, “My phone does more good than bad.” 

Look at the idea of phones in a classroom. The teacher is lecturing the class, and everyone is on their phones. How much information can the human brain retain when distracted by the information it is absorbing from a phone? I have been guilty of being on my phone during a lecture and then having to ask one of my peers what the teacher had just said because I missed it. The craziest thing was, half the time my classmates couldn’t even tell me what the teacher had just said. Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time, and if we cannot handle putting our phones down for an hour, then we should not have them in the classroom. It is important to take in the information that the teacher is giving to the class. Also, there is a problem with how much work we achieve in the classroom regarding phones. In my years of school, I have seen many students play on their phones for an hour when they are supposed to spend that hour writing an essay. This makes it so the teacher has to extend the due date because the students did not finish their work or the students receive a bad grade on the essay because they spent most of their time on their phones. 

If we could just put away our phones, we would be able to spend that time doing things that are productive for ourselves. Teenagers spend more time on their phones than they think they do. The Washington Post has data on how much time is spent on social media apps writing, “TikTok leads the way in total time on its platform, with girls who use it logging more than 2.5 hours a day, according to researchers from Brown University and the nonprofit Common Sense Media. But YouTube is only a bit behind, at nearly 2.5 hours, with Snapchat and messaging apps at about 2 hours, and Instagram at 92 minutes. Many of the girls surveyed, ages 11 to 15, use multiple platforms each day.” This is a lot of time spent on social media and our phones. In 2.5 hours, a lot can be accomplished if people just put the phone down. 

Phones have lessened our attention span and ability to focus. How often do you find yourself in a conversation and you have to check your phone quickly? How many times are you listening to a lecture, and you pull out your phone to check it? Every time we check our phones like this, our focus is broken and so is our attention span. I have tried having countless conversations with my friends and family, and they do not make it long before being distracted and pulling out their phones. There is no full engagement in conversation, and I see this all the time. Our phones take us away from meaningful conversations and it is unfortunate to watch. 

One major reason we are so attached to our phones at all times is because of the constant need to be connected with others 24/7. A recent article from the Washington Post reports, “Another strain was pressure to respond to friends right away — called “availability stress” — which was more frequent on Snapchat and messaging apps.” We have this desire to be constantly available for our friends and family, and we have the same expectation from them to be available right then and there when we reach out. However, this is not always realistic because people lead busy lives, and this causes a false narrative where the sender thinks they are being ignored or are not liked anymore, all because they did not receive a response quickly. If we took phones out of the classroom, this need to respond to each other would disintegrate and the false narratives would start to go away. It is known that if students are at school, they are busy and not available via phone. 

Another major thing I have noticed is that phones have become a comfort for their users. I have found myself and others in uncomfortable situations pulling out their phones to resort to comfort. I think this stops people from growing and developing their character. If one is having an uncomfortable conversation, pulling out their phone takes away from the conversation. There is a lot to take out of being uncomfortable, given that people do not grow in comfort. 

A common argument that students say is, “What if I need to call my mom when there is a school lockdown?” To this I say, there should not be any school lockdowns or gun violence, but more so, this is a very valid point. However, phones could be a distraction in a situation like this. It is very stressful and important to get to a safe place and eliminate distractions.

Social media can have a negative impact on mental health, especially in teenagers. Based on my own experience, social media can be so negative to the extent that I delete it. However, this is an arguable claim because not all teenagers have had the same experience with social media as others. In the Washington Post article about social media’s effect on depression in teenage girls, there was a fact that said, “Girls with moderate to severe depressive symptoms were also more likely to encounter helpful mental health resources on the platforms, the report said. Jacqueline Nesi, co-author and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown.” Although social media has platforms for the help of mental health, there is also the constant comparison that we feel when we are on social media. We are constantly comparing our lives and looks based on what others chose to post on their social media, which in most cases is their highlight reel. The Washington Article mentions a little bit of this by saying, “While most girls described the effects of social media on people their age as positive, about 1 in 4 who use TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat experience negative social comparisons and feel pressure daily to show the best versions of themselves.” Social media can have a lot of pressure on teenagers to feel like they need to constantly post their best being. Social media does not always see the real, raw, and authentic side of people’s lives. Therefore, we are comparing the best part of someone’s life, with maybe the not-so-good parts of our lives, because that’s all they chose to post. We need to know when this negative comparison is happening and when to be able to turn it off.

To be the best versions of ourselves, we need to learn how to prioritize greater things than our phones. The first step to succeed at this is to remove phones from the school classroom.