Students suffer withdrawal in a one day media blackout

Professors and teachers can often provide anecdotal evidence of how students react when told that smartphones (and other devices like laptops) are not to be used in the classroom. A new study suggests that the problem isn’t really the classroom: simply not having these devices at all could the issue.

Researchers found that 79 per cent of students subjected to a complete media blackout for just one day reported adverse reactions ranging from distress to confusion and isolation.

In vivid accounts, they told of overwhelming cravings, with one saying they were ‘itching like a crackhead [crack cocaine addict]’.

The study focused on people aged between 17 and 23 in ten countries, including the UK, where about 150 students at Bournemouth University spent 24 hours banned from using phones, social networking sites, the internet and TV.

They were allowed to use landline phones or read books and were asked to keep a diary.

One in five reported feelings of withdrawal akin to an addiction while 11 per cent said they were confused or felt like a failure.

Nearly one in five (19 per cent) reported feelings of distress and 11 per cent felt isolated. Just 21 per cent said they could feel the benefits of being unplugged.

Some students took their mobile phone with them just to touch them.

While some of these symptoms don’t seem as bad as others, it is interesting that only 21% “could feel the benefits” of being “unplugged.” These devices and SNS tools really have become necessities in a short amount of time.

In reactions to this study, it would be interesting to see whether people advocate a complete move away from such technology because of these possible dangerous side effects or if people suggest more moderate usage. But if usage is really is an addiction, then moderate usage could still be an issue. I would like to see a follow-up to this study that examines a longer-term media blackout – how long does it take for students to readjust to life without all this media and then what would be their thoughts about what they might be missing (or gaining)?

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