Phone Usage and College Students 

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As college students, we all know what stress feels like. I would even venture that a handful of us are familiar with chronic anxiety or depression. In fact, according to the American psychological Association, over 40% of college students have some sort of mental health concern, and over 25% display severe or worsening symptoms. This is an absolutely outrageous figure, as only a few years ago, these numbers were nearly halved. What could explain this sharp decline and young people’s health? I’m sure that the answer won’t surprise you, and some of you may already know what I’m about to say.

Cell phones. Of course we are all aware of the time wasting properties that a smartphone possesses, but it’s more than just that. In a study conducted by Pew Research Center, it was found that teenagers who have been diagnosed with smartphone addiction, actually display a chemical imbalance in their brains that makes them more prone to both anxiety and depression. Over usage has also been linked to worse academic performance from students. Finally, and somewhat in connection with academic performance, is a students life satisfaction. In many ways the two are tied together very closely.

When I was 14, I got a phone. It was a slide phone, you know the ones that have a full keyboard instead of having to push every number like eight times to get the letter you’re looking for? Yeah, it was super cool. Anyway, that’s what I had until junior year of high school when I was upgraded to an iPhone 5s. I still wasn’t allowed to have social media, or really anything besides very rudimentary apps, and my time spent on it was strictly limited. I basically used it to call and text. When I turned 18 however, my parents took a backseat on my smartphone usage and figured I was an adult, and old enough to know how to use it responsibly. Anyway they were right, but they were also very wrong. I began to spend copious amounts of time on my phone. It consumed almost every hour of my day. Despite all this though, I continued to function normally until I got to college.

The change in environment made me withdraw to the comfort of my dorm where I could use my phone as a coping mechanism. It allowed me to escape the stress of everyday life. This led me to feel like I wasn’t making friends, and it also really affected my grades. This all culminated in a serious bout of depression that nearly led to me dropping out of school. Eventually I got things under control, and I obviously did not end up dropping out. Unfortunately, thousands of students around the nation don’t have this same experience. A study done by a woman named Jean Twerge showed that teens who spent more than 5 hours per day on their phones, were 71% more likely to have more than 1 risk factor for suicide. What’s more, this was done regardless of content consumed. They could be browsing social media, or using it for homework help, but the amount of screen time had a direct correlation with higher rates of depression.

I’d like everyone to take out their phones really quickly. If you have an iPhone, under settings, there’s a tab called screen time. If you click on it, it should show you how much time you’ve spent on your phone today. Does anybody have under an hour? Does anybody have over an hour? Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to say how much time is listed. Anyway, the recommended daily amount of recreational screen time, is anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. I don’t know about everyone else, but for me, this time limit was definitely not upheld today.

This isn’t to say that you should limit phone usage to as short an amount of time as possible. In fact, the happiest teens studied, were those who use their phone for the recommended amount of time. After that though, their levels of unhappiness rose steadily with increased screen time.

Another issue of overuse, is the decline in academic performance. Students who consistently over use their phones, have been shown to have lower exam scores, and lower overall GPA. After a period of 10 years at a college in Brazil, a study was done by installing app usage trackers in 43 students phones. At the end of the experiment, it was shown that there was a significant negative correlation between total time spent using a smartphone and worsening academic performance. When they considered for solely in class time usage, opposed to weekends or free time, the effect was nearly doubled.

Both of these factors considered together, academic performance and declining mental health, have led younger generations to report a feeling of declining satisfaction with their life in general. Someone’s satisfaction with their own life is, as described by Shin and Johnson, “A judgemental process in which individuals assess the quality of their lives on the basis of their own unique set of criteria.” A hugely popular method for examining someone’s satisfaction with their life is the “Satisfaction with Life Scale.” It is widely used by professionals in clinical studies, and can help predict someone’s possible life outcomes in relation to mental health, marital satisfaction, and social relationships. This test suggests that our judgment of our satisfaction comes from our perceived successes and failures in important areas of our lives. For college students, a very important area is our academics. Perceived failure there can strongly influence what we think of ourselves.

To wrap all this up, it’s clear that smartphones can cause huge issues with students mental health, academic performance, and life satisfaction. When used correctly, it’s a marvelous piece of technology that can be extremely helpful and educational. Unfortunately, until there is more research that can highlight proper use for this technology, we should monitor ourselves carefully so as not to unintentionally course ourselves harm or dissatisfaction.

Cite this paper

Phone Usage and College Students . (2021, Jul 29). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/phone-usage-and-college-students/

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