Guest Writer: Frankie Wallace
It’s hard to find anyone without a smartphone nowadays. Adults and kids alike seem to be glued to these handheld devices around the clock. While smartphones are meant to keep us connected and help us access useful information and tools, they can also end up causing a lot of problems — especially in the classroom.
In 2015, Apple sold 300 million devices, which equates to just under 1 million devices being sold each day. The smartphone trend hasn’t stopped from there. In 2019, the number of smartphone users is expected to increase to 2.5 billion. It’s not just adults using these devices, either; about 56% of kids ages 8-12 in the U.S. have a smartphone, and that number increases when it comes to teenagers. It’s no surprise that smartphones in the classroom have become a problem in recent years.
Cell phones can obviously be a distraction to students in school with so many apps, social media, and the ability to text friends. They’ve become such a problem, in fact, that some schools have pushed to ban them from the classroom. But is it just students who are distracted by smartphones, or are teachers struggling too?
What Are the Risks of Too Much Smartphone Use?
Smartphone addiction is real, and the risk of it affecting adults is dangerously high. Don’t think you have a problem? Consider this: On average, smartphone users look at their device 80 times a day. This includes checking it right before bed and right when you wake up.
Reaching for your phone so often can be triggered by a variety of things, including the need to feel connected to social media, games, shopping, or even checking on work. Any type of content you could want is in the palm of your hand. Teachers certainly aren’t immune to this problem, and it’s important to understand the risks involved with too much smartphone use.
The physical and mental implications of too much smartphone use include higher stress levels, anxiety, and sleep deprivation. If you can’t stay away from your phone, you also run the risk of being easily distracted, which can have fatal consequences. Smartphone use is a common problem when it comes to distracted driving. Even a few seconds with your eyes off the road to read a text message or to check Facebook can lead to a car accident.
If you’re a teacher, the temptation to check your phone regularly can be even stronger, especially if you see kids with their phones out all day. Maybe you have a few minutes of silence while your students complete a test. Or maybe you’re itching to see what your friends have posted on social media in the last few hours and it distracts you from your lesson. Keep some of these risk factors in mind if you start to feel overly connected to your mobile device. If you feel like you’re struggling to stay away from it, you may need a more drastic solution.
Do You Need a Smartphone Detox?
Whether you’re constantly using your smartphone to access school-related information outside of school hours or you’re frequently being distracted by using your phone for personal reasons while in the classroom, you may need to evaluate your relationship with technology — a key component of having a healthy work-life balance. If you feel like you have too much of an attachment and don’t want to develop some of the issues listed above, it could be time for a digital detox.
Detoxing from your smartphone can take many forms. It probably won’t be easy, which can tell you just how “addicted” you really might be. Try some of the following tips to try to make the process feel less overwhelming:
- Hide your phone away during school hours so it’s out of sight.
- Turn it off when you’re in school.
- Download an app to keep you off your phone.
- Practice being more mindful and living in the moment.
- Leave your phone at home during the workday.
If you’re really struggling with a smartphone addiction, you may benefit from simply not having one. If you feel as though your phone has taken over your life in a negative way and you need a long-term break, you might consider getting rid of your phone entirely. If you decide to take this route, consider destroying your phone to make sure no one else gets their hands on any of your private information.
How Can Teachers Use Smartphones for Good?
It’s important to understand that smartphones aren’t all bad. Some schools and teachers have embraced the fact that they can be beneficial tools in a learning environment. In fact, some have actually started giving their students smartphones so they can do everything from sending emails to teachers to keeping track of their schedules and homework.
Teachers can also benefit from using smartphones. They can keep track of their own schedule, remain connected with students, and even discover digital learning resources like flashcards, tests, and games that they can show to their students. Because this generation is growing up surrounded by technology, kids may be more likely to show interest in something educational if it’s presented to them in a familiar way, such as through an app.
Smartphones aren’t going anywhere, and they’ll likely continue to become an even bigger part of our everyday lives. While they are unavoidable, it doesn’t mean they have to cause problems. If you’re a teacher, keep your job and your students your top priority. As long as rules and boundaries are set in place with smartphone usage in a school, both teachers and students alike can use them for good.
I am, once again, partnering with Angela Watson to help promote her 40-Hour Teacher Workweek Club. It’s an online professional development program that has already helped more than 32,000 teachers take control of their time and stay focused on what matters most. The next cohort is starting this summer, and the Club has been updated to cover emerging best practices for the changes ahead. Click here to receive a reminder email to sign up for Early Bird Access on June 8.