The smartphone is a distraction for students

The smartphone has become an indispensable part of our society. On the one hand, it offers opportunities for students to use it as an educational tool. On the other hand, it is a source of distraction during lectures or studying. There are good reasons why students view their smartphones as necessary. It is important for students to know these reasons so that they can anticipate them. This way they can concentrate better during lectures or while studying.

Smartphone history

Smartphones were released in the year 2000. It was first produced by Ericsson (R380). This was the first time the term smartphone was used. In the years that followed, the smartphone was further developed. In 2018, development has progressed so far that it can be used to replace a computer. A smartphone can now also do all the activities for which you use a computer, such as sharing information, sending and receiving emails, chatting, opening and editing documents, paying for products, browsing and shopping. Since smartphones offer more and more applications for different use cases, they have become a more integrated part of people’s daily lives.

Smartphone and study results

Researchers from Ghent University and UAntwerp have started a study into smartphone use among students. This study showed that students with above-average smartphone use only have a pass rate of 60.6%. Students with below-average usage pass 68.9% of their exams. These results are confirmed when looking at smartphone use during lectures and studying. The average student in this study checks his or her smartphone approximately three to five times per lecture. While studying this was twice an hour. Students who did it more got lower grades.

Furthermore, it has been shown that smartphones are harmful to our cognitive performance. Their use reduces focus and lowers performance on tasks that require mental concentration.

In 2010, the US National Safety Council estimated that at least 23% of all traffic accidents per year involve phone use behind the wheel. Users are increasingly distracted by their smartphones, making them less attentive to traffic.

Smartphone advantages

A first advantage that the smartphone offers is that it can be used for social communication. Another advantage of the smartphone is that it has the opportunity to stimulate the learning process. The smartphone allows students to access study materials and other forms of information related to school.

Disadvantages of smartphone

There are also many disadvantages to smartphones if they are not managed properly. The average smartphone user spends up to five hours a day on their smartphone. Smartphone addiction is mainly due to the many social networking sites that have emerged to date (Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.).

Another study on smartphone use among students at the North-West University (South Africa), conducted in 2017 by Joshua Chukwuere, Mbukanma and Enwereji, found that approximately 80% of students played games on their mobile phones during a lecture. play or chat with each other. The apps where you can get to know people (dating apps) are also popular among students. It has been shown that the smartphone has a negative effect on the concentration of students.

Why is the smartphone a distraction?

The reason why the smartphone is such a distraction is because it constantly displays notifications. This gives students the urge to look at these notifications. This phenomenon is called ‘checking’. It involves looking at your mobile phone several times to check if there is anything new (message, log,…).

Social pressure

It is also noticeable that students use their smartphones because they find class boring or to stay in touch with their friends. As humans, we tend to always look for interactions with others. Subsequently, you may also see others using their smartphones during a lecture. This makes you feel the urge to do this too. Students also experience social pressure. Because they see fellow students doing it, they don’t want to be left out.


It has also become a habit to check the smartphone. Especially during less fun activities, it is used to pass the time.


Furthermore, it appears that applications such as Facebook, Instagram and other social media increase dopamine levels. Receiving a like, message or notification gives us a kick. This is very addictive for young people.


Students appear to be more intrinsically motivated in social media than in the material they have to study. This will make them more likely to use their smartphone in class. Subsequently, a message or a conversation with a friend often provides a positive experience. As humans, we are always looking for positive experiences and try to avoid the negative. This ensures that we learn to try to avoid and focus on the positive (the smartphone). So it is mainly psychological factors that cause students to be distracted by their smartphones.

Consequences of smartphone use during lectures

Students who use smartphones during lectures tend to write and record less information. In addition, they also appear to perform worse on multiple-choice tests than students who leave their smartphones behind during class.

Those who use a smartphone on campus are always busy and attentively checking the various applications (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) that they have on their smartphone. This means that they only pay attention for a limited time and therefore participate passively in lessons. For these students, the smartphone has a negative impact on their study performance.

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