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Mobile Phone Use And Academic Performance

Today’s generation has captivated humanity and greatly increased its mode of survival more than ever. Scientific and technological advances brought radical changes to all aspects of life along with complications. Particularly, Information and Communication Technology/ies (ICT), the technologies that provide access to information through telecommunications, has dramatically changed the way we communicate through the introduction and advancement of Mobile Phones. Mobile Phones have been popular since the late 1900s. And in 2011, with more than seven (7) billion mobile connections worldwide and unique mobile subscriptions of over 3.5 billion, Mobile Phones have become very popular, especially among young people, and have become commonplace in educational institutions. In the Philippines, mobile cellular networks covered ninety-nine percent (99%) of the population in 2010, and eighty percent (80%) of households reported ownership of a mobile telephone.

A Mobile Phone or cell phone is a device that can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link while moving around a wide geographical area. Besides calling, it can also provide a variety of other services like text messaging, playing music, e-mail, internet access, infrared, Bluetooth, business applications, gaming and photography, and others. It was first introduced in 1973 and, in 1983 the first mobile phone was made to be commercially available.

Since its rise in popularity, Mobile Phones have become a central part of peoples’ lives and culture. People holding and staring at their Mobile Phones is a common site everywhere. In the educational setting, even a casual observation of today’s students will reveal Mobile Phones being used in every probable campus setting, including the classroom. A research conducted by Tindell & Bohlander, (2012) even suggests that mobile phones are habitually being used by college students during class time notwithstanding rules against doing so.

In a study by Levine et al., (2007) on the impact of mobile phone use in education, it was suggested that college students’ mobile phone use may be a distraction in academic situations. The various features that modern mobile phones have create a temptation to surf the Internet, check social media (e.g., Facebook), play video games, contact friends, explore new applications, or engage with any number of mobile-phone-based leisure activities, which some students fail to resist engaging when they should be focused on academics instead.

In a similar study conducted by Kirschner & Karpinski, (2010), it was found out that mobile phone use is negatively linked to academic performance of college students and that the negative relationship between mobile phone use and academic performance is attributed to students’ decreased attention while studying or a diminished amount of time dedicated to uninterrupted studying.

As Mobile Phone technology continues its rapid development, most college students perceiving the Mobile Phone predominantly as a leisure device, commonly use it mostly for social networking, watching videos, surfing the Internet and playing games. Having their own mobile phones or having access to such devices, students gain access to a variety of electronic media at almost any time and place. The aforementioned activities using Mobile Phones are highly time-consuming and are very distracting. In such case, with so much attention being given to mobile phones, the use of such may interfere with students’ study habits, which can ultimately affect their academic performance.

From the beginning, man was created to be diverse. We were created to be in the company of others. Each having unique personalities, we were made to understand each other by the process of communication. Communication is such a vital aspect in our existence and survival that we devised means to make it possible in any situation. With the increase of knowledge and advancement of technology, the means of communication also greatly improved and ultimately, mobile phones were invented.

Primarily, mobile phones were intended to function as communication devices. The earliest generation of mobile phones could only make and receive calls. They were so bulky it was impossible to carry them in a pocket. As these devices evolved, they became smaller and more features were added, such as multimedia messaging service (MMS), which allowed users to send and receive images. Most of these MMS-capable devices were equipped with cameras, which allowed users to capture photos, add captions, and send them to friends and relatives who also had MMS-capable phones. Today’s mobile phones are packed with many additional features, such as web browsers, games, cameras, video players and even navigational systems.

The use of electronic media, including mobile phones, has recently been linked with low academic performance of students. The explanation can be traced to multitasking. Several studies reveal that students regularly report using a variety of electronic media including mobile phones while studying, while in class, and while doing homework. Further, studies also identify a negative relationship between multitasking and academic performance. First, Wood et al. (2012) measured the effect of multitasking on students’ ability to learn from typical, university classroom lectures with a collection of electronic media. MSN messaging, emailing, and Facebook use via computer were all investigated together with mobile phone texting. Results showed that compared with students who did not multitask, students who multitasked with any of the technologies were associated with lower scores on follow-up assessments. Second, Junco and Cotton (2012) used a hierarchical regression to determine the power of multitasking to foresee actual cumulative college GPA. Results showed that Facebook-multitasking and texting-multitasking were significantly and negatively related to college GPA after controlling for sex, actual high school GPA, time preparing for class, and a student’s Internet skills. Finally, Rosen et al. (2013) observed the study behaviors as well as study settings of sample students. Participants were observed for 15 minutes with on-task and off-task behavior recorded every minute. Results showed that participants typically became distracted by media such as Facebook and texting after less than 6 minutes of studying. Furthermore, measurements of daily Facebook use and daily texting behavior predicted off-task behavior during study periods as well as self-reported GPA.

These studies suggest that social-networking sites such as Facebook, texting, Internet use, and emailing, potentially causes multitasking and task-switching during academic activities, resulting to a decrease in academic performance. As multiple activities can now be performed in a single device, the mobile phone, the relationship between the use of mobile phones and academic performance becomes more evident.

Mobile Phone Use and Multitasking

The relationship between mobile phone use, via multitasking, and student academic performance can be explained by three theories: Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning, Information Processing Theory, and Treisman’s Attenuation Model.

The Multimedia principle, a theory studied in depth by Richard Mayer, is based on the idea that learners learn better when they participate in relevant cognitive pressing such as attending to the relevant material in the lesson, mentally organizing the material into a coherent cognitive representation and mentally integrating the material with their existing knowledge.

According to Mayer, humans can only process a limited amount of information in a channel at a time, and they make sense of inbound information by actively creating mental depictions. Furthermore, Mayer highlights the importance of learning when new information is combined with previous knowledge.

The information processing theory, proposed by George A. Miller, is a cognitive methodology to understanding how the mind transforms sensory information. The model assumes that information that comes from the environment is subject to mental processes beyond a simple stimulus-response pattern. “Input” from the environment goes through the cognitive systems which is then measured by the “output”. Information that is received can take several paths depending on encoding, attention, storage and recognition. The theory looks at real time reactions to presented stimuli and how the mind converts that information.

Selective attention requires that stimuli are filtered so that attention is focused. Treisman’s model retains this early filter which works only on physical features of the message. Treisman states that the unattended message is processed less thoroughly than the attended one, and that the processing of the unattended message is attenuated or reduced to a greater or lesser extent depending on the demands on the limited capacity processing system.

Critical Synthesis

The ability to perform well in school can be attributed to a student’s study habits, self-motivation, and concentration, among others. While Mobile Phones appear to be capable of contributing to student learning through its various applications, it also becomes a great source of distraction and consumes a lot of time. The presence of distractions interferes with a student’s study habits and can ultimately adversely affect a student’s academic performance.

Studies reviewed showed the following:

• Students’ mobile phone use may be a disruption in academic settings;

• The mobile phone is perceived by students mostly as a leisure device rather than as an educational instrument; and

• A developing amount of research suggests that is encouraged by electronic media in any form and that multitasking and task-switching are negatively related to academic performance.

Considering the studies reviewed, it is probable that the modern mobile phone creates an attraction to check social media accounts (e.g., Facebook), surf the Internet, play video games, explore new applications, contact friends, or engage with any number of cell-phone-based leisure activities, which some students fail to resist when they should otherwise be focused on academics. As such, the negative relationship between cell phone use and academic performance identified here could be attributed to students’ decreased attention while studying or a diminished amount of time dedicated to uninterrupted studying. Indeed, a similar argument has been proffered to explain the negative relationship between general social networking site use or Facebook use and academic performance. Future research should examine the many potential underlying reasons for the negative relationship identified here, including time spent studying and multitasking. Of course, this line of research has demonstrated only relationships and not causality. Thus, there is a need to explore these relationships over time and with experimental designs. There is also a need to better understand how specific cell phone uses are related to academic performance. While this study found that cell phone use as a whole was negatively associated with academic performance, the relationship may vary with particular uses. In other words, contrary to the findings presented here, there may be specific uses that are positively related to academic performance. For example, Norris (1996) found that while TV watching as a whole was negatively associated with political participation, watching TV news and public affairs programming was positively associated with political participation. Likewise, Chen and Tzeng (2010) found that using the Internet for information seeking was associated with better academic performance, while using the Internet for video game playing was associated with lower levels of academic performance.

Finally, Junco (2012a) found that the total amount of time college students spend on Facebook, as well as the total number of times students check Facebook, were negatively associated with campus engagement. However, some Facebook activities such as creating events and RSVPing for events were positively associated with campus engagement. Thus, assessing cell phone use as a whole is likely to provide only a partial understanding of an undoubtedly complex relationship. Additional research assessing time devoted to specific cell phone uses such as gaming, social networking, information search, and the use of educational software (apps) is needed.

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