The changes that the digital technology world is experiencing are huge, and to follow them has proved hard as time passes. Furthermore, reflecting on the impact that the technology has had in the lives of humankind is a daunting task. Barely a decade ago, networks like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and YouTube were absent in people’s lifestyles. Moreover, games could only be played on the computers or the gaming machines, but they can now be played on the smartphones. All these have become part of the media and communication culture. The most connected generation is the millennial group which includes digital natives born in an era of a large technological increase. They do not know how a world without the internet looks like. Smartphone technology is the most dynamic and reliable regarding the access to the social networks and common web browsing. It is connected with many features, most of which could only be found in the PCs in previous ages.

The smartphone technology brings some gifts with one hand, and it takes others with the other. Despite promoting the access to reading materials and research platforms, this device has been found to be the most destructive tool among students in learning institutions. The use of smartphones in classrooms has had a severe impact on the students since it lowers their level of concentration and even sometimes leads to stress which also has adverse effects on their performance. Most students attempt to multitask during lessons. However, Loria reports that only two percent of people can multitask successfully. The present paper will show that smartphone usage has negative effects on the grades of students through the exploration of both primary and secondary sources, analyzing the implications, and providing some recommendations on the problem.

Evidence from the Past

Research on the impact of smartphones on the grades of students is still in its early years since the technology has not been around for long. However, some serious scholars and researchers have already done many studies on the topic, and most of them have established significant correlations between the two. Harman and Sato conducted a study on 118 students with an age range of 18-20 by asking several questions regarding the smartphone use and their current class performance (544-549). They found that there was a negative correlation between the smartphone use and the overall quality performance. However, the study on those students who admitted that they were comfortable while texting in class showed a positive correlation. The main reason that was found to affect the GPA was the amount of time wasted by the students focusing on the phones rather than learning. Harman and Sato concluded that the frequent use of the different features on the phones like texting, chatting, and browsing during class time had a negative impact on the performance of the students (544-549).

Another detailed research was done by Samaha and Hawi (321-325). They provided questionnaires to a sample of 300 students who had been randomly selected without bias. The researchers examined several variables including the impact of smartphones on the academics, perceived stress, and the general satisfaction with life (Samaha and Hawi 321-325). Samaha and Hawi found that the addiction to smartphone usage among students accounted for a drop in 3.9 percent variance in the GPA of the students after controlling for age and sex. The biggest contributors to this decrease were the social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and the rest. The study, however, mainly focuses on the future satisfaction in the life of the students rather than on the impact on academics. Nevertheless, it still offers some significant findings on the relationship between smartphone usage and the performance of the students.

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Lepp, Barkley, and Karpinski also examined 536 randomly selected students to establish the correlation between smartphone usage and performances by exploring the average time spend on the smartphone and the average GPA (Lepp, Barkley, and Karpinski 344). He also included other variables in his study like satisfaction and anxiety. The average amount of time dedicated to the smartphone was found to be 278.67 minutes, and the average GPA was 2.47. Lepp, Barkley, and Karpinski concluded that the use of smartphone among students affected their academic performance negatively (347). Wang et al. took a slightly different approach towards the subject. They used a program called SmartGPA, which is based on algorithms, to predict the cumulative grade point average among college students who use smartphones in the classrooms. A correlation was found between smartphone usage and GPA for the period examined, ten weeks. The program was able to predict the performance of the students based on whether the students were addicts or not (Wang et al.). The advantage of this study above the others is that it can still be used by other students in real time to analyze their personal, academic data, and smartphone usage to establish the correlation between the two. SmartGPA is an essential tool for those students who would like to monitor their smartphone usage and the impact it has on their studies. However, accounting for the extrinsic variables might now be easy.

Current Evidence

The current study included both secondary and primary methods of data collection. The secondary information was drawn from magazines, journals, and other internet sources. The need for the first-hand analysis of the correlation between smartphone addiction and undergraduate students’ performance led to the need for primary data. Such information will be used to support the conclusions made by the secondary sources of evidence regarding the relationship. Interviews, direct observation, and questionnaires were used on 50 randomly UIUC students as part of the study. The researchers attended lectures and keenly observed the behaviors of the students who had been selected in the context of the sample. They were later asked for interviews and persuaded to provide the actual marks as shown on the examination results portal (Wang et al.). The response of those who failed to show the online marks was considered as the correct one.

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After collecting the data, it was analyzed by the use of several statistical programs in order to identify the correlation values. It was found that thirty-two of the fifty students had used their smartphones for about one-third of the regular lecture time. Ten students had spent almost half of that time, while the rest recorded the insignificant phone use during lectures. Twenty-two of the mentioned thirty-two had noticed a drop in their performance in the recently finished examinations compared to the previous one (Wang et al.). Only ten students had improved. Nine of the ten who had recorded half-time usage of the phones recorded a reduction in the performance, and the other one had maintained GPA. The eight who had noted insignificant phone use in class had all improved. Thus, it was evident that the attention to a smartphone in class had a negative impact on the performance of the students. The students who had dedicated much time to their phones even admitted to having forgotten to submit their assignments on time in the different cases. They also failed to be in class on time.

In addition, a survey was conducted on the Facebook account of the researcher, where 116 students responded. All those who took part in the survey admitted addictive phone usage. On average, each student spent 8.29 hours daily on their phones. The total hours for all the students surveyed was 962. 92 of the asked students answered that they had spent about a quarter of their academic time using smartphones. An extra number of 19 students claimed that they spent about half of their class time using a smartphone. Two students said that they had never used their phones during lectures, and the remaining students shared that they used their phones all the time. Ninety-nine of the 116 students acknowledged that they felt that they had been addicted to the use of smartphones even in situations demanding absolute attention. A larger number of the remaining students were not sure of their addiction status regarding smartphone usage but claimed that they could still overcome the addiction. They said that they could be able to manage their phone usage responsibly. A drop of 1.0 or more of GPA was witnessed by 54 of the students surveyed after their continued usage of smartphones in the class during academic hours. An extra 39 students had a reduction of 2.0 and above in their GPA. The remaining students recorded that their grades had not been affected negatively by the phone usage in the class during academic hours.

Further Discussion

The study has established the relation between smartphone usage among students in college and their performance. The results that were collected, examined, and analyzed show that smartphone usage among students has a significantly negative effect on their performance. It also refuted the claims that texting in class improves the performance of students in college by proving the information that it indeed leads to poor performance. In fact, the poor performance can lead to increased stress levels among the affected students. It is because they are trapped in the addiction of smartphone use, which is practically hard to avoid, and whose consequences are undesirable.

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Since the current study was exploratory, the findings can be used to develop this new argument because it offers enough reasonable information on the topic. The primary challenge with the current study is the control of the other predictors of academic performance. Some of them may mask themselves within the observed variables without being noticed. Nonetheless, the students who used their smartphones more were more likely to have lower grades when the other factors remained constant. The distractions that phones cause have been identified as the greatest reason for a failure. In fact, most students perceive phones as being primarily made for leisure rather than for educational purposes. Since the phones are always in the students’ hands, they usually distract a person from the full concentration in class, libraries, or any other place chosen for learning. Most of students attempt to multitask, which proves to be impossible and ends up in a complete distraction. Task-switching is another activity that heavy users of phones in class engage in. Both multitasking and task-switching are very disruptive activities and can have adverse effects on the grades of the students (Karpinski et al. 1183).

The temptations that the modern mobile technology has are unlimited. They include the surfing the internet, games, text chatting, social networking, watching videos, taking photos, and the exploration of other endless applications that have emerged with the popularity of the smartphones. Very few students can resist the temptation to check on some of these features during academic hours. The effect is double sided. First, the students get distracted by checking on their phones, and second, they waste time which they could have used for serious studies. Although such situation may seem to be one-point, it has two effects on the student. They are likely to waste more time during all academic sessions if they do not at least attempt to resist any of these temptations (Karpinski et al. 1184). It has become impossible for students to have uninterrupted study time in the modern world because of the popularity of mobile technology and the innovation of powerful smartphones which can act both as computers and phones. Further studies on how the smartphones exactly affect the students are necessary to establish a firm position on this issue. Moreover, the exact impact of the specific applications and phone usage should be identified so that the problem can be viewed with sufficient knowledge of the diverse variables and how each works, including the extent.

Increased stress has been linked to the excessive usage of smartphones among students. Some social networks have been experiencing cyber bullying whose impact on the education of students is damaging because they get mentally affected. Such effect lowers their concentration in studies. Most victims of cyber bullying are the youths and mostly those in the higher institutions of learning. Thus, the excessive usage of smartphones exposes these students to the online bullying which could have been avoided if they limit their online presence. The overuse of the internet among students is one factor contributing to the increased cyber harassment whose impact has been overly negative (Karpinski et al. 1190). Smartphone-induced stress can also come as a result of social network envy. Most people tend to post their best photos in the social media platforms. Most of the photos posted in the networks might not be actual reflections of the lifestyles that they are having. However, when the students log in to their Facebook accounts and see the glamorous photos of their friends, they mostly tend to hate their lives if they do not seem to match those admirable trends of the friends. Such envy has been found to be the cause of most of the online stress among the majority of social media users. There is a significant probability that most of those who suffer from stress will continue scanning across the networks to compare themselves with other friends. In fact, the levels of stress increases with the growing comparison.


The paper has examined the way smartphones affect the grades of students by looking at both the works of previous researchers and also through the first-hand exploration. It has been found that the usage of a smartphone during academic time has an adverse impact on the performance of students. The use of smartphones in the academic hours distracts the students from being attentive and may lead to the failure to learn important points from the study or lecture. Moreover, smartphones have been identified as time-consuming. They steal the time that should have been spent on personal studies. Stress that often relates to the overuse of smartphones and the internet is another factor that contributes to the poor performance among the smartphone addicts. Although the current paper has identified some of the primary effects and relations of smartphone and performance, there is still more work needed in this field. Future researchers should attempt to increase the accuracy of measuring the variables and identify the exact input of each feature of the smartphones in the relation. Such studies will be essential since they will provide a clear picture of a cause-effect relationship, and such an analysis can be helpful in finding a solution to the problem of smartphone addiction.