Study: Why Smartphones Are Helping Your Kids Get Better Grades

October 3, 2016

11:20 am

Smartphones are a problem in school, right? Not according to one new study, which tracks a gap between those with phones and those without — those with their phones did a whopping 17 percentage points better!

But that doesn’t mean that allowing smartphones in school is a completely awesome idea. Here’s a look at the study and the implications.

The Study

Researchers in Singapore tested 87 undergraduates, who underwent tests of their cognitive function. While a control group kept their smartphones, another group did not. The average result: Those with their phones did 17 percent better, even when the phone stayed in their pocket. The entire study is available on Science Direct.

Why It’s Not as Awesome as It Sounds

The study proves college students need their phones. Those younger than college level, who have been raised within an even more tech savvy generation, are likely to rely on mobile phones even more. But that’s due to the extent of their smartphone addiction, not the curative properties of the smartphone itself. As the study explains:

“Despite a huge spike in smartphone overuse, the cognitive and emotional consequences of smartphone overuse have rarely been examined empirically. In two studies, we investigated whether separation from a smartphone influences state anxiety and impairs higher-order cognitive processes, such as executive functions. We found that smartphone separation causes heightened anxiety, which in turn mediates the adverse effect of smartphone separation on all core aspects of executive functions.”

An additional explanation comes from one Telegraph article on the topic:

“The researchers conclude that smartphone addiction is now so prevalent among young people that teachers should allow ‘technology breaks’ so that users can check messages and social networks to allay the fear that they are missing out.”

But Certain Apps Are Pretty Awesome for Schoolkids, Too

Let’s end on an upbeat note: Sure, kids might be addicted to their phones, but that doesn’t mean that some apps can’t be great for them.

The best example is “Sit With Us,” an app invented by the sixteen-year-old Natalie Hampton. It lets users find lunch tables that are open to allowing newcomers to sit there, solving one of the biggest schooltime dilemmas: Who to sit with during lunch. Clearly, smartphones in school can accomplish great things.

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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