Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cell Phone Anxiety

Editor's Selection IconThis post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for Earlier I wrote about cell phone rudeness in the classroom. In that post I mentioned that asking students to go without cell phones is like asking them to go without friends. That statement generated a lot of interest from faculty and students int he comments, on facebook, and in person so I thought I would share a little bit of research that backs up my statement.

In a recently published article (see below for reference) Dorothy Skierkowski and Rebecca Wood tracked college-aged youth's anxiety over a 3- or 5-day texting restriction. That is to say, for three or five days participants in the study were not allowed to use text messaging. In spite of the studies extremely small sample size (n=23), they had some interesting results. They found that participants that were identified has high-volume texters (greater than 92 texts per day on average) thought about texting an average of 47 times per day during the restricted period. Even the low-volume texters thought about it 23 times on average. In psychology we might consider those repetitive worrisome thoughts as rumination, a hallmark of anxiety.

Another important finding from this study involved the open-ended survey responses from students collected during the restriction. The authors sum those responses with the following sentence:
 "Clearly, asking students to restrict their texting behavior made a powerful impact on most study participants, to the extent that some were not able to refrain from doing so, a large number believed their relationships had worsened over the duration of the study, and most endured the effects of texting restriction with a moderate to high degree of annoyance, anxiety, and/or stress. "

So it is because of this and similar studies that I think we need to review the idea of the cell-phone ban in the classroom setting. While this study involved restricted use over a matter of days, it was still observed that students frequently thought about texting and failed to comply with text-messaging restrictions. So my fear is that banning cell phones might be just as detrimental to learning as allowing them in class. I decided to do my own experiment to gather data on how cell phones impact learning in MY classroom. I let you know how that turned out in a future post.

UPDATE: If  you are interested in statistics you might like my follow-up to this post which more closely examines the statistics in this article.
Dorothy Skierkowski & Rebecca M. Wood (2012). To text or not to text? The importance of text messaging among college-aged youth Computers in Human Behavior, 28 (2), 744-756 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2011.11.023


  1. Hello, You picked up an important topic. I'd like to share a little bit. If you really have extreme phone anxiety, there might be something else going on. Try going to a therapist or reading a book about social anxiety or shyness. There are thousands upon thousands of people out there going through the same thing you are, and psychologists have developed tried and true methods of overcoming anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy is especially helpful, as I understand. With the help of a therapist, you sort of... change your internal monologue. Instead of: "oh God I have to make a phone call what will the person say what do I say to them oh no oh no" it slowly becomes "this phone call will be a success in every way I want because I am in control" etc. This is not an easy transition, though, so you should at least get a good book on the subject before expecting yourself to be able to do it.
    @Rimi from Cell Phone Adapter

  2. Everything is very open and very clear explanation of issues. was truly information. Your website is very useful. Thanks for sharing.