The figures don't lie: Smartphones hurt kids' grades


"If rapid measures aren't taken, we may be in for serious problems," frets Ryuta Kawashima, professor at the Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer at Tohoku University. "It's no exaggeration to say that kids today are being controlled by smartphones, and becoming enslaved by them."

Writing in Shukan Shincho (Nov 5), Shin Shiraishi has assembled a gathering storm of evidence to show that use of smartphones is not conducive to the development of young minds.

Children have become so dependent on their mobile devices for communicating that Masashi Yasukawa, director of the Web Counseling Association, believes that if things are allowed to continue as is, "the day will come when, as adults, they'll attend a class reunion, and nobody will talk to anyone."

That's if they manage to graduate, because smartphone use -- by cutting into both their daily activities and sleep time -- is having a major impact on academic performance.

In August 2013, tests given by a research group at Rikkyo University found major discrepancies in test performance. The longer the time spent using smartphones, the lower the scores. In another survey of middle school student usage of the Internet, email and SNS by the Yokohama City board of education found, after cross tabulation was conducted, that students who said they use their smartphone for less than 30 minutes per day averaged a score of 60.7%, while students who said they use their smartphones for four or more hours a day had a considerably lower average score of 43.6%.

In a joint project undertaken by Tohoku University and the Sendai board of education, data was collected from some 17,000 students at 124 primary schools and 25,000 students at 63 middle schools.

"We were shocked to see that the study concluded that longer usage of smart phones or cell phones caused grades to decline, irrespective of the amount of time devoted to study," Prof Kawashima was quoted as saying.

When students from the same classes were compared, those who utilized their cell phones for one hour or less per day scored an average of over 65 points on a test. Those who used their smartphones for four hours or more per day scored less than 55 points.

Among students who studied more than two hours per day, but who used their smartphones less than one hour per day, the scores averaged over 70 points. But among students who studied for the same duration, but who used their cell phones two to three hours per day, the averages score was more than 10 points lower. Moreover the same trend was apparent whatever the subject -- Japanese language, science, social science or English.

Based on laboratory experiments with monkeys and mice, Kawashima won't rule out the possibility that the lower academic performance may be organic -- indicative of the smartphones' effects on their users' brains.

"There was once a time when even I myself was hooked on computer games, like 'The Ambition of Nobunaga,' so I can understand how kids get so attached to their smartphones," recalls Toshimasa Ota, a journalist who specializes in child rearing and education. "But I had to stop and ask myself, 'What the hell am I doing?'

"So for my kids, I have set some rules, like using filtering on the web browser. And also they have to tell me before I let them buy applications. What's more, I obliged them to promise that they'd leave the phones to recharge in the living room, and not take them into their own rooms."

"Even then, I think parents should give some thought to whether or not their kids really need a smartphone," says Tohoku University's Kawashima. "When I had a chance to meet children in Miyagi Prefecture, I asked the about whether they felt a smartphone was a necessity," said Kawashima. "After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, many areas had no cell phone coverage for about one month. At that time compared with now, not that many families and friends were able to communicate using the LINE application.

"When I asked children about this though, in so many words, they said things didn't happen that way. It's more like they've just become so used to communications by sending each other text or pictures via their smartphones, they feel it's a necessity for their daily lives.

"But maybe now's the time to reconsider whether smartphones are really a necessity or not."

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“It’s no exaggeration to say that kids today are being controlled by smartphones, and becoming enslaved by them.”

Just kids? I see more adults engrossed in their phones than I do see kids.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Crap parenting effects grades.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

huh, it might as well be video games, tv, radio, comic books & manga and anything else that erodes your brain if you do too much of one thing. Perhaps if the parents bought their kids a notepc they would actually learn to program, surf the web with 2 hands, actually write something decent, create music, draw art, build a game, make money, etc, etc.... I can tell you the smartphone is a great device for quick access to info on the move, but a crap interface for doing anything productive!!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Too many parents ALLOW this to happen in the first place. "Ahh my kid is whining! Here go play with my iphone so I can relax".

7 ( +7 / -0 )

It's coming to the point where if you don't have a mobile, you're a nobody -- you don't exist. And teenagers are the most vulnerable of all to peer group pressure. Better to fail your Kokugo exam than to be electronically ostracized.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Smartphones hurt kids' grades

Are there that many kids going out and buying their own smartphone plans and footing the monthly bill themselves? Prob not. Blame the parents.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Although smart phones are extremely addictive, perfaps the rote learning of facts that can be instantly accessed from "Google Sensei" on their phones are also part of the problem. No wonder grades are going down. There needs to be a complete overhall of the education system and teaching techniques to cater for this new tech savy generation. We must swim with the tide instead of blaming the kids for using these powerful new tools. A radical change to a more communicative and critical thinking approach (incorporating the new technology) is the way to go and may get them talking to each other, but who is going to teach that? Certainly not those raised in the old ways. Big challenges ahead. Agreed though if we drop the ball as educators, we may be faced with a generation of morons that have the fastest fingers ever and play games really, really well! The new opiate of the masses ?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Oh no. What in the world will we do?!

If only something existed to help guide children.

If only some sort of position were there to teach and show our children how to grow up.

Maybe, just maybe there is a person, no, two people, possibly a man and a women, better yet, an ADULT man and woman, were there to raise a child into a healthy adult life. Setting limits. Having rules.

Oh well. These things are just fantasies. Lets just hope the children realize the harm they are doing to themselves before its too late.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

“We were shocked to see that the study concluded that longer usage of smart phones or cell phones caused grades to decline, irrespective of the amount of time devoted to study,” Prof Kawashima was quoted as saying

This is rubbish! I know plenty of 'kids' that do not have smart phones and they are just as stupid as other kids that have them. However, that point is not how much they use their smart phones. The point is, what they use their smart phones for. Smart phones can be a great way to improve education by having the world's knowledge base at your fingertips. The problems start with chat apps like Line, dating sites and those mind-dumbing join the jewels games. Instead of trying to ban smart phones they should be teaching kids how to use them for education. I recommend all teachers try integrating them into the classroom. I encourage students to use the smart phones in college classes to do everything from taking photos of notes on the board to doing instant research or translations of materials being taught and, in some cases, actually using them to write essays and documents. They are a valuable classroom asset if they are used properly. My guess is, this 'jiji' is complaining about smart phone use because he doesn't know how to use one. "A smart phone is only as smart as the person using it!"

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Smartphones CAN affect grades, in the same way that computers can affect work and grades, or family life, etc., for good AND bad. I'm guessing Ryuta Kawashima uses a computer for research and to compile statistics, but while that is not a bad reason for using them at all, he might also be spending some time on it playing games, looking at porn, or what have you.

Again, it's not smartphones that are the problem, any more than computers are a problem, television is a problem, the radio is a problem, the ballpoint pen instead of fountain, or whatever the newest technology is that the older generation wants to blame everything on. It's HOW the tools are used, and by whom. Thanks to my smart phone I've eliminated the need to carry around dictionaries and other resource material (in some cases... still like my dictionaries, though), and is invaluable for communication, etc. They can supplement education just as easily as they can be a detriment. Parents can help moderate how they are used, but trying to take them out of the hands of society just won't happen. We are also talking about the old 'teacher as explainer, kids as receptacles of information' style teaching, too.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

“We were shocked to see that the study concluded that longer usage of smart phones or cell phones caused grades to decline, irrespective of the amount of time devoted to study,” Prof Kawashima was quoted as saying.

It is not clear to me that this is so. Correlation is not causation. It could just as easily be that those students who have judged their own ability to be poor could spend more time on their smartphones. At least from what has been written here.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This is the same Dr. Ryuta Kawashima who worked on those delightful brain training games on the Nintendo DS a few years ago. I had one of them and really liked it, and it was certainly more stimulating than, say, looking at pictures of cats.

Perhaps he could make smartphone versions of those games (if he hasn't already). With today's motion-sensing technology, maybe he could even include a penalty if the player is walking while using the phone and not looking where he is going.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

ThonTaddeo: "Perhaps he could make smartphone versions of those games (if he hasn't already)."

There is a smart phone version of his game; or used to be... I don't think it was good enough to compete with the bevy of similar but superior 'brain training' games, like the app that Luminosity continues to make a mint off of. Sudoka apps are also huge, as are others, and yet you could be doing sudoku on your smart phone on the train sitting beside a person doing sudoku in a book and one of you would be labelled as 'wasting their time', 'anti-social', 'rude', 'a danger to society', 'unproductive', etc.

And speaking of that game and its creator, why is he not saying that hand-held game consoles like the one he produced the software for are a menace? I know a lot of kids who don't have cell phones, let alone smart phones, but every single one of them has a hand-held gaming device, and even a few of them have his game (given by their parents). Heck, I even see the odd kid riding a bicycle and playing PSP or Nintendo DS while doing it!!

Again, it's not the tool, it's the person using it that makes him or her a tool or not.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Smart Phones are only as useful as the people using them, they are tools and if used properly can be a huge assist in the classroom, IF their use is controlled, which is the problem. There is practically no way to ensure that all the students are on the same page when their favorite app is just a swipe away.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Kids are not little animals raised for our future benefit. Let their grades drop. They'll have more than enough spare capacity for the average pencil-pusher job.j

Anybody see the movie Idiocracy? People devolve into idiots and a normal guy woken up after 400 years in a freezer is the smartest guy on the planet, smarter than the President of the World. Think we're headed that way due to smartphones?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

So we have kids who have previously been enslaved and controlled by a regimented education system now enslaved and controlled by smartphones.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Grades don't mean a thing unless they are tied to learning.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I saw a kid on a train actually reading a real book the other day. I am tempted to say there is hope yet but upon seeing him I realised how long its been since I have seen such a thing.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

More like a "dumb device for playing games".

1 ( +2 / -1 )

the day will come when, as adults, they’ll attend a class reunion, and nobody will talk to anyone

Same goes for the entire Internet particularly blogging sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. People are losing touch with reality as a whole and verbal communication is lacking.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I don't buy it. In the end, it's about the apps and what you use the phone for. There are plenty of apps I use for my iPhone that are of immense help to me and my studies at a college I'm attending. It isn't all Facebook or Line. The other day, I was using an app called Office Lens to snap shots of what my instructor was writing on the whiteboard so I can remember what the lecture was about. Also, I was "experimenting" with Evernote to take notes that I can share and collaborate with my fellow students. Thus, nice try.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

... Well to summarize what I feel about this subject...

"I spit on the smartphones!!!"

The smartphones are like a Swiss army knife.. does everything but if you are going to do a real and precise job you use specialized tools.

I don't like smartphones and I don't like the people who walk around with that thing pasted to their hands. Useless machine that everybody is hiped though

0 ( +2 / -2 )

(For me) this was obvious from the start. My wife and I agreed to keep our two boys away from console games and smart phones. Kept things tactile: drawing, painting, building, reading, modeling, playing outdoors etc. But when their grandparents gave them console games and their much older step-sister gave one of them her "old" smart phone my wife would not support me in taking them away. Drawing, painting, reading etc virtually stopped overnight. (Thanks to the power of Lego building was merely reduced). Of course the tactile activities need some effort from the parents or someone to prepare, guide and clear up but I regarded that as my duty as a parent. As they were already 9 and 8 respectively I hope that the foundation I had tried to give them until that day will still benefit them. I would have become addicted to pinball machines in my day most probably had it not been for the money needed to play them and sensible parents.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Figures never lie, but those attempting to interpret them do.

73.421 percent of the time!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm afraid that no serious conversation can make kids respect the rules of smartphone usage better, than parental control apps. KidLogger, Kidshell, Norton - each of them has it's pluses and minuses. I personally prefer Kidlogger for it's feature of counting how much time does your child spend in every application apart.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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