A young student walks into a classroom. After sitting down, the student decides to look over their notes or perhaps read a book before class begins. A few moments pass by, the student begins to notice all of their classmates are on their phones, eyeballs glued to the small, bright blue-and-white screens.
It is dead quiet in the room, that is until the professor enters. Much like machines themselves, everyone immediately puts their phones away.
“They are a major distraction,” Eric Troiano said regarding cell phones. “But, some people have better self control.”
Troiano is a student at SUNY Plattsburgh, a university in a small town in upstate New York. He enjoys listening to music while walking to class or going to the arts building on campus to practice his drumming.
However, Troiano knows when to draw the line. He does not listen to music while working on his homework.
“It distracts me from actually focusing,” Troiano said. “Since I understand how music works I listen for time signatures, melodies and lyrical meaning which will all take my focus off of homework.”
Troiano does check his phone during his work though. “I check messages and social media,” Troiano said.
Most or all students today have a cell phone on them. An April 2010 study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the University of Michigan found that in schools that allowed students to carry cell phones, 71 percent of students sent or received text messages on their phones in class.
The percentage was almost as high in classrooms that didn’t allow cell phone usage: 65 percent. In schools that banned cell phones entirely, the percentage was still as high as 58 percent.
“It’s not going away. It’s a double-edged sword,” Jeff Parrett said. Parrett was a history teacher for 32 years on Long Island, New York. He started long before cell phones and computers became part of the education system.
“Phones can be used as a great research tool,” Parrett said. “There are great vocab and history sites I told the kids to use for research during class.”
Parrett went on to say how phones are a great way to communicate and obtain information. However, cell phones can cause a lot of trouble.
“Back in my day when the school day was over, it was over,” Parrett said. “We would leave whatever happened at school in school. Now if there is a problem or a fight, it continues after school and into the next day where real issues can surface.”
An overload of technology can often lead to stress in the classroom and at home.
Wayne Gernick is a psychologist on Long Island, New York. Many of his clients in his private practice are young adults and teens. “The impact on sleep physically from blue light can cognitively not allow the mind to quiet,” Gernick said.
“Competing attention on phones and technology competes with focus on required tasks and responsibilities leading to stress,” Gernick said. “Also, the effect of disconnecting from direct interpersonal interactions and relationships lead to feeling alone, disconnected and unfulfilled personally.”
Whether it be in the hallways, the lunchroom, the school yard or even late at night, a student can always count on a small blue screen to light them up. Cell phones are indeed not going away.
“There is no escape,” Parrett said.
A typical view of a student’s technological devices. Photo by Anthony Bubbico.