Students Investigate Smartphone Effects

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Rachel Young’s research investigates the role of social media and other user-generated digital content in health and wellness. Overall, the goal behind her research is to apply mass communication theory to improve health outcomes.

Journalism students find some professional benefits to the spread of social media and smartphones, from finding sources on Twitter to using phones to record photo or audio in the field. But constant connection also has its drawbacks. Hours a day spent with these small screens leads to a lack of unstructured time for connection in person or thinking creatively.

Students in Rachel’s first year seminar, Fall 2019, engaged with the question, what do our phones do to us, as individuals and as a society. They reviewed and critiqued the current research on how smartphones and social media may affect concentration, conversation, self-esteem, and social skills. Students also experimented with their own smartphone use. By following along with the challenges in the book Bored and Brilliant, students recorded how much time they really spent on phones, kept phones off while in motion, and deleted their favorite app for a day.  Students interviewed others about their smartphone habits, then developed a media manifesto that called out one effect of smartphones and proposed a solution. Their drastic and creative fixes included locking phones up during face-to-face conversations, creating messaging apps that won’t allow abbreviations, and smashing social media and phones entirely. Students reported becoming much more aware of smartphone use, and also hoped to be more intentional about using their phones in the future.

Select slides the students used in Rachel's class for their presentations are highlighted below.

Smartphones stealing attn

put it down

dinsaurs

shortcuts

unplug