Smartphone distractions affect parent involvement, student engagement

March 2, 2019 | 3:09 am

Updated March 2, 2019 | 6:18 am

Graphic by Owensboro Times

Smartphones are easily the most favored mobile device for online activities among U.S. consumers. And that number grew by three percent last year, according to Deloitte, a multinational professional services network.

According to the company’s Global Mobile survey, Americans are viewing their smartphones on average 52 times per day. It used to be that surfing the web was done on a desktop or laptop, but with the development of smartphones, people are now able to have that access at their fingertips at all times.

Burns Middle School Guidance Counselor Chantay Taylor said she has noticed this just as much with parents as with students. According to Taylor, parents often pay more attention to their smartphones than the school functions they are attending.

“Even during Jumpstart, parents are disengaged and on their phones while they are here to get information about their kids’ upcoming year,” Taylor said.

According to a 3-year old study by Apple, users unlock their iPhones over 80 times a day. While a study by the research firm Dscout revealed that the typical smartphone user touches his or her phone 2,617 times every day.  

Taylor said this is true of students, who receive texts continuously throughout the day, often from parents. The desire to unlock the phone and view the text is much the same as getting snail mail for older generations. Taylor attributes this to the massive thrill and reward from dopamine, the chemical that makes people happy.

Cal Newport, author of the book “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World” said this same thrill is found in social media, which is most often accessed through smartphones.

“Facebook 10 years ago is an experience that’s very different than Facebook today,” Newport said. “Ten years ago, you were looking at your friends’ profiles. Today, it’s this unending stream of rich rewards, likes, @ tags and @ comments, that are coming at you all day long, that you have to keep compulsively checking.”

This constant contact with “friends” has prompted researchers to investigate the effect of social media on mental health.

Research has shown that social media can increase anxiety and affect self-esteem. According to a study published in Computers in Human Behavior, most people aren’t using social media to communicate with others; instead, they are consuming random pieces of content and by the end, feel remorseful for wasting time.

A study in the magazine “Current Opinion in Psychology” found that envying status updates and photos led to a comparison of lives, which increases the chances of developing depression.

Taylor said that almost all students at BMS have smartphones and most of the social problems at school stem from something on social media. Counselors at other schools agreed and said the school’s faculty and administration step in if the bullying occurs on a school laptop or during the school day. But the problem is particularly complex because of the group texts and Snapchats that occur outside of school.

“Most of the time the students will come to the counseling office either personally or because they are worried about a friend,” Owensboro High School guidance counselor Christie Fogle said. “We address the social and emotional parts and then take it to administration if needed.”

Fogle also said that it is easier for someone to bully through technology because they are able to hide behind a screen.  

Fogle admits she worries that students spend too much time on their phones and not enough time experiencing life. But she has been pleasantly surprised since OHS changed its policy to allow cell phones during class change and lunch.  

“I thought all students would be glued to their phones during the five minutes of passing time between classes, but really it’s just a few students that check something quickly,” Fogle said. “Most students interact face to face during the transition time, and during lunch, students check social media but it is not their entire focus. They are still interacting with one another eating.”

Apple now provides screen time reports to its customers. where users can access real-time reports about how much time is spent on a device. But Newport said this isn’t enough. In his interview, he recommends consumers “start from scratch” and “step away for 30 days.”

“Get back in touch with what you really care about, what you want to spend your time on, and when you’re done with the 30 days, rebuild that digital life from scratch — but do it this time with real intention,” Newport told NPR.

If you can’t do that, Newport recommends deleting any app “in which a company makes a profit every time you click on it.”

March 2, 2019 | 3:09 am

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