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Mental Health

Smartphone Use Reduces Academic Performance, Study Finds

— February 13, 2024

New PISA report reveals link between smartphone use in school and lower grades, particularly in math.

For over a decade, there has been a concerning trend of declining test scores and overall academic performance among American students compared to their global counterparts. This decline has coincided with the widespread adoption of smartphones and the prevalence of social media, with teenagers increasingly devoting a significant portion of their time to screen-based activities.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a triennial assessment evaluating 15-year-olds in nearly 80 countries across math, reading, and science, is a globally recognized benchmark for assessing educational levels. The latest report, the first conducted since the onset of the pandemic, revealed disheartening outcomes for American students. Specifically, the math scores were the lowest recorded since the test’s inception in 2003. It’s worth noting that no country has demonstrated a positive trend in any subject over the past decade.

The increasing reliance on smartphones is a significant factor in this academic decline, as highlighted by the PISA study. Students who spent less than an hour of “leisure” time on digital devices at school scored approximately 50 points higher in math than their counterparts who engaged with screens for more than five hours daily.

Andreas Schleicher, the director of the PISA study, emphasized that screens generally act as distractions for students in the educational environment. Those reporting feelings of distraction due to classmates’ phone usage exhibited lower scores. Additionally, the anxiety induced by separation from digital devices further compounds students’ challenges, impacting their overall academic performance.

Smartphone Use Reduces Academic Performance, Study Finds
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Recognizing the detrimental impact of excessive screen time, the study suggests practical interventions such as limiting leisure device usage during school hours. Many school systems have adopted policies in which students.

The director of PISA’s recommendation to consider alternatives, like providing students with “dumbphones” or temporarily withholding devices until after the school day, underscores the urgency of addressing this issue to mitigate the adverse effects on students’ abilities to learn and perform academically.

Beyond the immediate impact on academic performance, the consequences of excessive screen time extend to students’ overall well-being. The PISA study sheds light on the negative correlation between increased screen usage and a decline in math scores, but it also underscores the broader implications for students’ mental health. The distraction caused by screens at school, coupled with the anxiety arising from separation, contributes to a challenging learning environment.

Consequently, addressing the issue goes beyond academic intervention; it requires a holistic approach that considers students’ psychological well-being. Striking a balance between technology use and other educational activities is imperative to foster a conducive and healthy learning environment for students to thrive academically and emotionally.

Parents and educators may find merit in considering strategies such as limiting screen time during and after school hours or exploring alternatives to mitigate the negative impact on students’ learning experiences.


Children’s Smartphone Use Associated With Lower Test Scores, According to a New Study

Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) Report

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