Cellphones have become extremely popular over the years. They started out as being used for basic communication such as calling others. They then started to include letters under the numbers so that we can text. Now, cellphones are called smartphones. These phones allow consumers to do everything that can be done on a computer, and everything that can be done on a phone. They have become more of a distracting device as time goes by. The number of distracted students, drivers, employees, co-workers, family members, friends, have only gone up. Upon research, it has been proven that cellphones reduce our attention in various environments and situations. In this research, we will look at the different actions we take that make cellphones reduce our ability to pay attention fully.
To start with, the use of cellphones has demonstrated weakened performance in multitasking. For example, students in class contribute to cellphones reducing attention. According to (Mendoza, Pody, Lee, Kim, McDonough 2018) “Young adults between the ages of 18–24 send or receive an average of 109 text messages per day. Although cellphones have other features such as voice call and web browsing, text messaging appears to be the most convenient method of communication among young adults. Such excessive cellphone use has brought researchers to focus on how this usage impacts learning and memory in classroom settings.” Today, there is a major influence by social media and the addiction it has on students. In high school, it is still manageable to control students from using their cellphones.
Teachers and administrators are able to put rules into place of not allowing students to use their cellphones. Everything is mostly done by hand, the old-fashioned way. On the other hand, in college it becomes more difficult due to the fact that students are now adults and they are responsible for all the actions they take. There are professors who prohibit the use of cellphones, but unfortunately it is inevitable to have the device on you and not be able to look at it. In this study by (Mendoza, Pody, Lee, Kim, McDonough 2018) it is stated that, “Attention is optimal when individuals are focused on one task at a time. However, with many competent sources vying for our attention, both inside and outside the classroom, multitasking has become the norm for most members of the younger generations.”
Most students report to use social media, text, browse the web, do online shopping, and check emails during class. This poses a threat to students in the classroom mainly because their focus is elsewhere. The professor could have been saying something important, and the student might not have an understanding of what was said at a later time because they were not paying attention. As much as we think multitasking is efficient, there are many disadvantages to this as we only have a limit to the number of things we can pay attention to at a time. Long term memory also comes into play with the distraction of a cellphone. In order to effectively encode information, we must first process the sensory information from the lecture the professor is teaching, and then select the information that is made most important by the professor or the key concepts of the lecture that might show up in future exams or quizzes.
This happens when we ignore distractions from the environment, and cellphones are one of those distractions that can complicate this process. Only a small portion of the information we input in our brain actually gets stored into our long-term memory. It is understandable that after an amount of time of listening to a large amount of information, it becomes difficult to continue trying to process all the information after a long period of time. Switching one’s attention to a cellphone happens rather quickly, and results in cognitive outlays. The dependence on these devices can also cause anxiety. Knowing that it is in the student’s backpack, or purse is just as much of a distraction.
This also creates anxiety by constantly having the student thinking who could be texting, emailing, or what kind of notification it is. (Mendoza, Pody, Lee, Kim, McDonough 2018) state in their article that there is a general fear of not having access to their mobile device. This is referred to “nomophobia.” There was a questionnaire performed by (Yildrim and Correia, 2015) they demonstrated that nomophobia is constructed by four factors. The first is not being able to communicate, the second is losing connectedness, the third is not being able to access information, and lastly giving up convenience. Students in college go through this withdrawal method when they are sitting in class, mostly with tougher professors who don’t allow cellphones. They might get up to use the bathroom frequently during class, or even leave early. This is a major distraction to most students and prohibits them from getting the full learning experience they should in the classroom.
To prove the results of cellphones reducing students learning, there was a study performed. (Mendoza, Pody, Lee, Kim, McDonough 2018) recruited undergraduate psychology students from a small college in Arkansas. The students were asked to watch a twenty-minute TED talk. They were randomly placed in three groups. The first group was allowed to use their cellphone. Group two was allowed to have the cellphone in their possession, without the permission of using it and on silent. The third group was not allowed to watch the TED talk with their cellphones on them. The end result of this study is that after they filled out the questionnaire, students who actually had their cellphones removed had the highest scores.
Distracted driving is one of the major issues that come with cellphone use. While doing research on this topic, it is found that this is one of the most dangerous effects of cellphones reducing our attention. As students, as parents, as adults and teenagers, we need to drive. Driving is the way most of us get to places such as work, school, and home. The use of cellphones while driving is only increasing every day. It has become a public health concern in the recent years. In 2010, there were 995 fatalities reported and 24,000 injuries. This is believed to be caused by cellphone use while driving. As driving itself is considered a weapon, with cellphones involved it makes it worse. While driving a person doesn’t only need to be attentive to what they are doing, but also be aware of others around. Cars are very heavy machines that can kill a person instantly if it is not driven carefully. When a person is driving and texting, the person is not even looking up to see what is happening on the road.
According to (Weller, Shackleford, Dieckmann, Slovic 2012) a survey stated that 75% of the participants said they never leave their home without their phone, while 25% of the participants said that they would rather lose their wallet than lose their phone. This survey also proved the sentimental attachment that people have with their phones and that’s why they can’t leave their house without it. Unfortunately, this excessive use of cell phones continues to grow with drivers all around the world. To further support the danger of distractions with cellphones while driving, there was a study conducted by (Weller, Shackleford, Dieckmann, Slovic 2012.) they asked participants within the age of 17-28, with a valid license in good standing, drove at least three times per week, and lastly owned a cellphone.
The participants who were under 18, were allowed to join in the study with parental permission and supervision. As a result, 89% claimed that they have called someone while driving, 62.3% claimed that they have texted while driving, 21.5% claimed that they have either read or wrote a text message while driving. For the participants who had data service on their phones, 16.8% claimed that they have used Facebook, Instagram, snapchat and other social media platforms while driving, and 22.4% claimed to have used any other apps that they have available on their phones. This includes games, shopping apps, and news apps. In the table below, endorsement rates were also summarized by the attachment of participants and their cellphones.