Smartphones: Friend or Foe? I Oxford Open Learning


    Smartphones: Friend or Foe?

    Nearly 70% of adults and 90% of 16-24-year-olds in the UK own a smartphone according to Ofcom. The UK is fast becoming a smartphone society. People spend approximately 2 hours daily on their smartphones browsing, researching, responding and making purchases.

    Many of us complain about not having enough time to do the things we really want to do.

    What could you do with those hours you can lose to your Smartphone?

    Smartphones mean interruptions. Texts, social media messages, posts and updates all crave just a bit of our precious attention. Frequently they win. We abandon our tasks to check, send, like, connect, comment and pop through a quick response.

    Stanford University conducted an insightful research on the link between productivity and interruptions. Regularly checking electronic communications resulted in decreased productivity, as the researchers discovered. Switching back and forth means that people slow down. Their focus diminishes, their thinking gets fuzzy and they get tired quickly.

    At times, smartphones offer delightful distractions from the mundane. However, the more you use your smartphone, the more distracted you could become, and the more likely your weird and wonderful brain could develop a sneaky dependence. The addiction to sugar is just as real a phenomena as addiction to smart phones. Soon enough, you could get addicted to the online world which your smartphone is enticing you into. Smartphones are like brain candy; deliciously distracting and guilt-evoking.

    Smartphones can be useful in Education, though…

    In education, teachers are able to practice more varied learning methods using smartphone technology. Some argue that phones actively encourage students to engage more in classroom activities. And with nearly 90% of secondary school children owning a phone, the opportunities are endless. Did you know, for instance, that the Japanese eBook market is expanding by 80% annually as young people delight in reading books on their mobile phones?

    Smartphones enable us to get hold of others quickly and gain directions if we get lost. We are able to receive crucial information in a split second and inform others of news from anywhere at any time. However, none of us had a smartphone 20 years ago. We talked to each other face to face a lot more. We asked questions instead of instant googling. And we enjoyed a better work-life balance. We were less scattered and distracted and interrupted. The pace of life seemed to be slower.

    Is your smartphone a friend or a foe, then? I shall let you decide. However, I am not yet convinced enough to switch from a good old-fashioned mobile to a smartphone. I enjoy belonging to the 30% smartphone-free adult population… for the time being at least.


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    Henrietta Nagy is a seasoned portfolio worker with over 10 years’ experience in the UK education sector. Henrietta writes educational content, designs academic courses, delivers university lecturers, mentors entrepreneurs, and provides career development coaching. With 9 years of higher education studies internationally (including an MBA), she has worked with CEOs, academics, scholars, managers, women entrepreneurs, academic administrators, and other consultants.