Smartphones have long been thought to be distractions and potentially developmentally damaging to children, but a new study conducted in the UK says keeping them out of the classroom may be beneficial to the poorest performing students.
The report, Ill Communication: The Impact of Mobile Phones on Student Performance, found that after schools banned mobile phones, test scores for 16-year-old students improved by 6.4%. According to The Guardian, the economists who conducted the study said the gain was “equivalent of adding five days to the school year.”
And that number was even higher for students labeled as low achievers: students in this category scored 14.23% better on tests than when a ban was not in place.
The Guardian reports that about three-quarters of students in the U.S. own the potential distractions and debates have raged about whether or not they should be allowed in school. Last year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio lifted a smartphone ban in the city’s schools.
“… De Blasio’s lifting of the ban on mobile phones with a stated intention of reducing inequalities may in fact lead to the opposite. Allowing phones into schools will harm the lowest-achieving and low-income students the most,” said researchers and authors Louis-Philippe Beland and Richard Murphy.
The results of this study seem to suggest that a student who even has access to a smartphone is falling victim to being distracted by the device. And, if the results are transferrable to the United States, seem to conflict in part with a recent study that revealed parents’ thoughts on technology in the classroom. Though adults overall thought technology in the classroom was helpful to their children, they might not necessarily think smartphones—which offer many functions geared specifically toward social media and communication—are a good idea as compared to devices such as computers and iPads. Still, both studies demonstrate the challenges that continue to face further integration of technology into schools.