Cell Phone Use: Distractions, Productivity, and Academic Performance

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Updated: Aug 23, 2023
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The cell phone was invented in 1973. Since then, the cell phone has progressed into a piece of technology that people cannot live without. Cell phones are now a distraction for people. They keep people from being able to concentrate on tasks that happen in our everyday life. Cell phones make it harder for humans to be productive. Cell phones also make it harder for students to do well in school. Cell phones are becoming more of a hassle every day, and it is our job to become aware of the problem in order to infiltrate it.

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Distraction Caused by Cell Phones

According to the journal Social Psychology, “Even if you go all day without touching your cell phone once, just having it visible nearby may distract you from complex tasks.” In a study that looked at a group of college students, participants were asked to complete different tasks with the study leader’s cell phone visible. In another study, participants completed the same tasks with their own cell phones visible. As a result, the students performed poorly on their tasks in both scenarios when compared to a group who participated in the study with no cell phone visible.

Notifications and Interruptions

According to the study author, Billy Thornton, “the sight of a cell phone reminds people of the broader social community they can access via texting and the internet. With the presence of a cell phone, you’re wondering what those people are doing. Even if it’s just mental, your focus is not on the task at hand; your mind is elsewhere.” In another study conducted by the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, they found that even just having your phone out reduces the quality of social interaction, even if you are not on your phone. They concluded that the mere presence of a phone can disrupt human bonding and intimacy. Researchers suggest putting the phone away and paying attention to what is in front of you and your surroundings. Otherwise, you might miss your life going by because you were on your phone.

Notifications and Cognitive Disruption

Researchers have found that just hearing your phone ring with a notification is enough to distract you. Now, we obviously want to be able to be reached in case of an emergency, but cell phone notifications have proven to have a negative impact on our productivity. In a study conducted in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, researchers found that subjects performing a task that required intense focus performed poorly when they received a notification on their phone during the experiment. After the notification went off, it disturbed their concentration, and thus, they had more incorrect answers and were more likely to make rapid guesses. Subjects who received notification of a call- even if they did not pick up were three times likelier to make mistakes. The reason for these results is that, in spite of all the multitasking we do, our brains aren’t really that good at it. We only have so much attention we can devote at a given moment, and more tasks mean that our concentration is divided. According to the researchers, even though the actual moment of interruption from a phone notification is brief, it disrupts our thoughts for a considerably longer period, making it tough to get back on track. Maybe you’re wondering who it is, or maybe you think of someone it could be and remember that you need to tell them something. Suddenly, you’re down the mental rabbit hole, and your concentration is shot.

Nighttime Phone Use and Long-Term Productivity

Checking your phone at night might make you less productive the next day. If you’re like most people, you probably spend your days doing work/homework on your laptop and your nights connected to your phone. You check your phone often as you make dinner to make sure no one has texted or called you. At the end of the night, you lie in bed on your phone. A study conducted by the University of Florida researchers suggest that late nights on your phone take away from productivity the following day. The more people checked their phones at night, the less engaged they felt the next day. Organizational psychologists emphasize segmentation and detachment for mental health and long-term productivity. If your professional/school life is segmented, then you have a clear line between working hours and personal hours. If you are experiencing detachment, then your mind is far from work. In order to recharge, you need to detach.

Strategies for Enhanced Focus

In a study conducted by Dr. Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University, he surveyed high school students and asked them how often they switch from studying to doing something related to technology, such as checking email, Facebook, texting, or watching TV.

Across all grade levels, 80% of students reported that they switch between studying and technology somewhat often to very often. Rosen calls this “Continuous Partial Attention,” meaning that most of the time, students are not focused on studying but rather are moving their attention back and forth between studying and various forms of technology. As you might expect, students who were the most distracted generally had the most windows open on their computers. Students who were less distracted had higher GPAs than students who switched back and forth fairly often and those who regularly checked Facebook or text messages. Students who had strategies for studying also had higher GPAs, according to Rosen’s findings. Rosen explains, “Young people’s technology use is really about quelling anxiety…they don’t want to miss out or to be the last person to hear some news.” One of the major problems with texting and posting on Facebook and other social media sites while in class and/or studying is that ‘they draw on the same mental resources—using language, parsing meaning—demanded by schoolwork.’ Ultimately, he concludes, if we want students to learn and perform at their best, smartphones and other online distractions must be managed.

As you can see, cell phones serve as a major disruption in our lives. They disrupt our personal lives and our work/school lives. Researchers have given us some great tips on how to focus and how to not be distracted by our cell phones. If we start putting those strategies into our daily lives, we will be able to focus more and have a better life with fewer distractions.

Works Cited

  1. Rose, Ellen. “Continuous Partial Attention: Reconsidering the Role of Online Learning in the Age of Interruption.” Educational Technology, vol. 50, no. 4, July-August 2010, pp. 41-46.
  2. Przybylski, Andrew K., and Netta Weinstein. “How the Presence of Mobile Communication Technology Influences Face-to-Face Conversation Quality.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, vol. 30, no. 3, 2012, pp. 237-246.
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Cell Phone Use: Distractions, Productivity, and Academic Performance. (2023, Jun 20). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/cell-phone-use-distractions-productivity-and-academic-performance/