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Students use smartphones almost constantly, whether during classes as a tool for learning, to unwind at the end of the day, or for fun on social media. These uses all have impacts on students' success and wellbeing in different ways, and our staff explores them in the articles below.
Smartphones present both a distraction from and tool to enhance learning
By Judith Ray
The classroom should be a place where students are able to learn but how is that possible when everyone has their devices out? Everyone seems to have a smartphone these days, and teenagers are particularly attached to them.
Although teenagers are strongly bound to their smartphones, there is a dark side. Many educators and even some students are complaining that smartphones are a distraction and can detract from learning.
Catherine Kent, a Ohio Wesleyan freshman, thinks smart phones affect learning in the classroom. Kent agrees that elementary schools should not allow students to use smartphones in class. However, Kent thinks that removing smartphones from university classrooms would prevent students from learning how to use them responsibly.
“When schools never give students the opportunity to use phones, they will not learn how to use them to benefit their learning.”
Cate Alston, another OWU freshman, has a similar viewpoint. She agrees with Kent that smartphones should not be removed from university classrooms. Alston stated that even though phones can be a distraction, they can also be a tool.
“I think when they’re used correctly, they can help students make connections and learn in more personalized ways.”
Dr. Michele Nobel, an Ohio Wesleyan University professor, believes that smartphones can be a distraction in class. Nobel indicates that having notifications pop up and multiple windows or tabs open can cause issues for students who are easily distracted.
“Sometimes, the distraction of something on a phone screen can actually distract others in class, like if someone's screen continues to light up with notifications when students are trying to work in class.’’
Despite these challenges, Nobel also loves how smartphones can be used to quickly and efficiently conduct research and foster exploration of topics.
“I also like using review tools like Kahoot! or collaborative work tools like Google Docs or Slides when students are in small groups.”
Blue light emitted from smartphones impacts sleep patterns for users
By Ariyana Rimmal
Have you noticed your sleep vanish after scrolling through your phone at night? This could be the reason! Harvard Health and National Institutes of Health have reported that blue light from screens such as phones, televisions, and computers can cause fluctuations in sleep patterns.
Blue light can alter the production of sleep influencers like melatonin and cortisol in the human body. This can ultimately cause a push back of normal sleep times, and even insomnia.
So what is blue light?
“Blue light is towards the shorter wavelength of light that we observe on the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Dr. Robert Harmon, a professor of astronomy at Ohio Wesleyan University.
This means that the light we see is visible light, but there also are other variations of light at different wavelengths that our eyes cannot detect. Blue light is one of those variations. Blue light does not get its name due to its color, but rather its wavelength because it is closer to the bluer side of the spectrum.
Dr. Harmon said blue light does in fact affect melatonin levels in the body. This makes people less sleepy once exposed to it.
“During the day, blue light emitted from the sky tells us its daytime due to our evolutionary heritage. This light suppresses the formation of melatonin through neural circuits, and this pattern is repeated when we are exposed to blue light from screens,” said Dr. Harmon.
Many students suffer from disturbed sleep schedules and the reason could be excessive screen-time.
“I use my phone six hours a day on average,” said Areli Hernandez, an OWU student.
When asked about whether she uses her phone more at night, Hernandez said yes. She also claimed that she scrolls through TikTok at night which makes her less sleepy. The cause for this is not direct light from screens, but invisible blue light.
“If I don’t use my phone before bed I feel like I am lacking something,” said Jenni Le, also an OWU student. This shows how dependent people are on their phones. Using phones at night is a common practice to unwind after a long day. However, is it something to be reconsidered for a healthier lifestyle?
There are ways to reduce blue light exposure. The easiest way is to limit screen time, but new technological advancements have allowed companies like Apple and Samsung to introduce night mode in their smartphones, which limits the blue light emitted from screens.
Excessive social media usage impacts users’ mental wellbeing
By Sophia Rohr
College students today have access to lots of social media apps. In fact, 84 percent of 18-29-year-olds use some form of social media, according to the Pew Research Center. So, how is social media harming college students, and what should social media companies do to help?
Opal Londraville, an Ohio State University freshman, describes how social media harms her by distracting her from her schoolwork.
“I am easily distracted by [social media] because it’s so easy to just open my phone and scroll through TikTok instead of being productive, like working on homework.”
There are other potential consequences of social media usage. “…[T]here exists a negative relationship between social media addiction and self-esteem” according to a research article from the Social Science Computer Review, an online academic journal.
Maya Frank, a Kent State University freshman, describes why this relationship could be.
“Some people see what others have and look down on themselves because they don’t have it.”
Katie Conover, an Ohio University freshman, agrees and shares how social media makes her feel.
“Sometimes I get sad because I look at other people’s lives and bodies, and I’m like ‘oh man, I wish that were me.’”
Low self-esteem can impact students’ mental health. The Mayo Clinic found links between low self-esteem and depression and anxiety symptoms.
Social media companies have policies in place to help protect from these consequences.
Age restrictions are common and aim to keep younger students off social media. Conover, Frank and Londraville all agreed that social media sites should have an age restriction. Although they disagreed about what age should be the cut-off. Frank thinks 10, but Conover and Londraville insist on 13.
Age restrictions do not impact college students, though. They must rely on other protections.
One protection is being able to block other users and report cyber-bullying or harassment.
Platforms can also censor content, but what social media companies should and should not censor is debated.
Frank thinks "nudity, pornography and violence" should be censored along with "other inappropriate content, like hate speech/symbols".
These measures do not block all of the harmful effects of social media, like lowered self-esteem. Solutions to combat these effects might exist, but Conover, Frank and Londraville could not think of any.
Can you? What else do you think social media companies should be doing to protect users?