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Posted on June 7th 2020


We live in an age of distraction. A recent report found that there are now more mobile phones on the planet than people. The ability to concentrate on a task is central to learning (as Daniel Willingham says: ‘Memory is the residue of thought’). So how can we encourage students to better manage their mobile phones while learning?

Research suggests that we check our phones on average 85 times a day. Think you don’t use your phone that much? The same research found that people tend to use their phone twice as much as they think they do. Excessive use of mobile phones has been associated with a range of negative consequences, such as poorer concentration, reduction in stress and disrupted sleep.

These consequences are bad at the best of times. During revision time they can be disastrous. Of course mobile phones can be used as a revision tool, as they offer access to google and a plethora of revision sites and revision apps). However, they can also be a source of procrastination and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).


Left to themselves, the temptation of misuse will probably far outweigh the benefits of effective use. It also interesting to note that teenagers evaluate risk and reward very differently to adults. This is why they engage in ‘risky’, or what we might perceive to be ‘self-handicapping’, behaviours.

One option is to turn the phone off or to give it to a parent to look after. There is certainly a case to be made that ‘out of sight is out of mind’, a sort of cold turkey approach. This is a strategy often employed to help improve self-control Removing the temptation reduces the likelihood of interacting with it.

However, recent research suggests that for students who use their mobile phone a lot, this absence may make them more stressed and anxious. For these students, other strategies may have more of an impact. There is no one size fits all when it comes to helping students manage their mobile phones during revision.

We therefore suggest a range of simple options to help. For some, a combination of these strategies will yield the best results. The twelve strategies are…

  • Set yourself a time limit
  • Turn your phone off
  • Limit the notifications you receive
  • Put your phone away whilst revising
  • Let your friends know when you will be back online
  • Turn down your phone’s backlight near bedtime
  • Use going on your phone as a reward for a certain amount of work
  • Resist the urge to reply to every message you receive
  • Give your phone to someone you trust to look after it while you study
  • Turn your phone’s airplane mode on
  • Keep your phone out of your room while you sleep
  • Turn your phone on silent when you need to focus


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