If you walk into a busy subway car or city street, you’ll notice that most people’s gaze is fixed on their smartphone screen.
While smartphones are handy for quickly finding out about the weather or other useful facts, researchers say they continuously distract us and are harming our ability to concentrate.
In particular, smartphone use is distracting students during lectures and lowering their grades, and awareness of this trend has even prompted some lecturers to declare their lectures device-free.
Researchers at Stellenbosch University in South Africa say that today, people spend over three hours on their phones every day.
‘While ever-smarter digital devices have made many aspects of our lives easier and more efficient, a growing body of evidence suggests that, by continuously distracting us, they are harming our ability to concentrate,’ say researchers Dr Daniel le Roux and Douglas Parry from the Cognition and Technology Research Group in the Department of Information Science at Stellenbosch University.
Le Roux, who leads the research, and Parry, a PhD candidate, focus on the impact of digital media, particularly phones, on students’ ability to concentrate in the classroom.
According to them, today’s students are ‘digital natives’ – people born after 1980 – who have grown up surrounded by digital media and have quickly adapted to this environment to the point that ‘they are constantly media-multitasking, that is, concurrently engaging with, and rapidly switching between, multiple media to stay connected, always updated and always stimulated.’
As such, the researchers say it shouldn’t be surprising that university lecturers are encouraged to develop blended learning strategies that incorporate videos, podcasts, Facebook pages and other digital media into the classroom.
The researchers warn, however, than an important byproduct of these initiative has been to establish media use during lectures as the norm.
‘Studies by ourselves and researchers across the world show that students constantly use their phones when they are in class,’ the researchers say.
‘But here’s the kicker: if you think they are following the lecture slides or engaging in debates about the topic you are mistaken,’ they say.
According to the researchers, this is hardly ever true and when students use their phones during lectures, they do so to send messages to their friends, browse social media and watch YouTube videos, or just browse the internet in general.
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Source: Daily Mail