Do you struggle to focus on your revision for any length of time? Do you struggle to fall asleep or constantly wake up in the night? Do you feel socially isolated, lonely or unable to connect with people? Are you anxious? If you answered yes to any of these questions one cause could be the way you are using your mobile phone.
In this blog I will review the pros and cons of using your mobile phone for revision as well as some top tips on how to change your mobile phone usage to help improve your focus, sleep and physical and mental wellbeing.
The GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY
Mobile phones have opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for revision activities and resources. There are amazing Apps for recording homework, electronic flash cards, revision notes, access to past paper questions, podcast, educational videos and much, much more.
Two apps that I recommend to my students are Quizlet and Anki. These are used to create electronic flashcards and the app is designed so you learn to use flash card correctly. The apps will test your knowledge using both sides of the card, e.g. ‘Gene’ guess the definition, and also the reverse ‘A small section of DNA which codes for a polypeptide’ guess the keyword. The Apps also use an algorithm to make sure that the cards you get right are shown to you less frequently, and therefore you are efficient with your time and focusing on content you are struggling to remember.
There are many fantastic resources which schools or individuals can pay for, my favourites are GCSEpod and SnapRevise. Both have short videos covering the theory for the Biology course at GCSE/A-level. This brings revision to life in an engaging way, means you can utilise otherwise deadtime for work (such as watching videos on the bus to school), and you can pause and re-watch to go at your own pace. YouTube is amazing for free educational videos. I have my YouTube MissEstruch channel for just this https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN4caNO-iJ8-4jGB1WOdo9w.
Your mobile phone is probably your biggest procrastination temptation. Whether it’s because of severe FOMO, compulsively checking for new notification or getting lost in TikTok, are you fully aware of the impact it has on your revision?
The use of your mobile phone is not only wasting revision time whilst you are on your phone, but research shows that using (or even just being able to see!!) your mobile phone will leave your brain distracted and unable to focus fully for 20 minutes afterwards. If you are trying to complete an extended piece of writing, like an essay, this means your train of thought will be completely broken and the work will take you much longer to do and it will be of poorer quality. Covering topics in your revision will also take much longer than it should and your development of long-term memories will be impeded.
Lack of Focus
Do you think you can multitask whilst on your phone? A lot of students think they can. In reality, your brain cannot split focus between two tasks that have similar stimuli, for example splitting your attention between reading and listening to music with lyrics or reading something on your phone whilst ‘listening’ to someone talk to you. You will only be given each task part of your focus. This leaves you vulnerable to your surroundings, disengaged in social situations and if you are working simultaneously, the work won’t be being stored in your long-term memory.
Do you feel overwhelmed when your teacher sets a homework task to read a chapter in a book? If social media is your main source of reading, then you will be used to only reading short snippets of information and perhaps have little to no experience of extended reading. This is why many students find the prospect of being asked to read multiple pages in a book for homework daunting.
Lack of Sleep
Excessive use of devices, like mobile phones, negatively impacts your sleep duration and quality. Phones and tablets emit blue light from their screens, and this delays the release of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone which helps you to fall asleep, so without it you are left feeling wide awake and alert, or constantly waking up in the night. Using your phone a lot in the evenings could be the cause of your insomnia, and this has a detrimental impact on your physical and mental health.
Poor mental hygiene
What are all the ingredients in your favourite fast food? You probably don’t know, but I’m guessing you do know the ingredients are unlikely to be good for you and therefore you shouldn’t have it often. Social media is the same as fast food in this sense, you don’t really know everything you are feeding into your mind or the impact everything you watch and read is having on your thoughts and wellbeing, but you know it probably isn’t good for you. The big difference though is unlike fast food and take always, some students are using social media for hours and hours every day. This poor ‘mental hygiene’ is likely to negatively impact your mental wellbeing. Filtered photos and the selective choice of which photos people post to show off how great revision is going for them gives you a warped view of reality and could leave you feeling inadequate, lonely and anxious. For me this is the ugliest side of mobile phone usage, as young people are left feeling inferior when they are not.
Unfollow people who spread hate, negativity or generally end up making you feel like crap when you see their posts! Keep your mental hygiene clean!
Limit your usage. Cutting out mobiles phones completely is unrealistic and prevents you gaining all the benefits they provide. Instead limit your usage. Only allow yourself a set amount of time on your phone each evening. To make this easier, tell you friends when you will/won’t be online, turn your phone to silent and turn off notifications.
Do not have your phone with you while you are revising or writing essays. This includes not working whilst listening to music with lyrics.
Turn on night mode. All smart phones have the option to automatically set up night mode, which is a blue light filter for the screen. This will be from sunset to sunrise your phone screen with look slightly yellow/red, but you should sleep A LOT better.
Stop 1 hour before bed. Avoid using your phone at all 1 hour before bed, this will allow your body to release melatonin and make it easier for you to drift off to sleep.
Move your phone away from your bed. Most people use their phone as their alarm, so leave it turned on next to their bed. The danger is that you check your phone in the night and then wake yourself up with the blue and bright lights. Try placing your phone the other end of the room to your bed to prevent this.
Mobile phones have many amazing applications, but now you have more details on their impacts I hope you take control to prevent your mobile usage being the cause of you distraction and misdirection.