Smartphones ‘biggest challenge’ facing teachers, many students ‘addicted’

23 May 2017

Image: Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Almost half of secondary school students in Ireland claim that they’re ‘addicted’ to their smartphones.

The digital age is having a profound effect on the Irish education system, with 45pc of students agreeing they have an addiction to their smartphones.

That’s according to a new report that surveyed 2,623 secondary school students across the country, which also found that more than half of students used their smartphone in class in the past week without their teacher knowing.

Prevalence of smartphones an issue

“As a teacher myself, I think that the prevalence of smartphones in schools is the biggest challenge facing our profession,” said Luke Saunders, co-founder of Studyclix, the company behind the study.

“Like most of us, teenagers feel the need to check their phone repeatedly throughout the school day. It doesn’t surprise me that more than half checked their phone in class in the last seven days.

“From a policy point of view, I think a lot of schools still haven’t fully made up their minds on how to deal with this issue.”

Snapchat is the most popular app among school-goers, followed by Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The latter, though, is used by less than half of students. Almost 10pc of those surveyed have signed up to Tinder.

“As much as they would like to think otherwise, the teenage brain is not good at multitasking,” said Saunders.

“Having a constant stream of messages and updates arriving on their smartphones is a major distraction to students trying to study. I would advise students to try and get in the habit of studying in 25-minute uninterrupted bursts with their phone on aeroplane mode.”

Stay safe, kids

There are growing concerns for cybersecurity and safety, too. Just before Christmas, the ISPCC warned that bullying, abuse, porn, sextortion, public humiliation and grooming are just some of the issues that children as young as five are witnessing – mostly unsupervised – in the online world.

Support workers have found that young people are showing a lack of empathy when comments are posted online compared to being face-to-face with someone. They also found that some children think the purpose of social media is to taunt and insult others and that this is normal behaviour.

Unhealthy habits

Parents may have already formed a negative opinion on their children’s frequent use of technology, but a recent report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) is putting it in writing.

Questionnaires were sent to 200,000 children across 42 countries, analysing their general health both in terms of their diets and the amount of physical activity they do each day.

Worryingly, the WHO makes the link towards children being in serious danger of developing unhealthy lifestyles that could one day lead to conditions such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Between 2002 and 2014, the report found that two-thirds of kids from the age of 11 were spending at least two hours a day browsing the internet or chatting with friends through social media.

Broken down between genders, the study showed that these figures are exceeded by 80pc of 15 year-old-boys and 70pc of 15-year-old girls, meaning only a small minority of teens are within healthy limits.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic