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College Students and Smart Phones: Too Much of a Good Thing?

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Times are tough for a lot of us these days, but being cheap is becoming chic. Old clothes from thrift stores are cool again—as long as you call them vintage—and spending money on a cable bill each month is a tradition that’s going out the window thanks to streaming video websites such as Hulu. Families are taking “staycations” and checking out local attractions during the summer as opposed to packing up their suitcases and hitting the road, and dining in is becoming more popular than dining out.

Nearly everyone is trying to shave costs here and there in order to save money, but studies show that sales of Blackberries, iPhones, and other smart phones such as the Android are constantly on the rise. I was unintentionally at the mall the day the new iPhone 4 was released last month, and judging by the line snaking from the Apple store down the mall corridor, people are willing to spend a lot of money on the latest phones.

Smart Phones are Popular with the College Crowd

Even with the new contract discounts that most wireless carriers offer their customers, smart phones typically cost anywhere from $100 to $300, and that doesn’t include an actual monthly phone bill. A combined data plan and calling plan for smart phones is usually around $80 to $100 a month.

College students—yes, those poor, broke Ramen noodle-eating college students that are known to call home begging their parents for money—are smart phones’ biggest fans. Then again, mom and dad might be footing the bill.

A recent study by Ball State University’s Institute for Mobile Media Research found that 99.8 percent of college students now own some type of cell phone, and ninety-seven percent of the students surveyed used text messaging as their main form of communication. Just as Americans are foregoing cable boxes for internet TV, college students are switching their computing and communication needs over to their phones.

Addicted to Smart Phones?

Smart phones not only make text messaging extremely simple, they give people the opportunity to check their email and update their Facebook status in a few seconds.(I’m definitely guilty of that; my iPhone is just about glued to my hands whenever I’m awake.)

There’s even a real reason that Blackberries are jokingly called CrackBerries— psychologists are now finding that smart phones can be pretty addictive. Mr. Meyer, a cognitive psychologist that spoke with the New York Times, feels that balance is needed. “The key is to make sure this technology helps you carry out the tasks of daily life instead of interfering with them. It’s about balance and managing things.”

The New York Times also reported that the average young American now spends practically every waking minute — except for time spent in class— using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device. This information came from a new study performed by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Facebook Users Earn Lower Grades in College

Ohio State University has also done some research on the topic. Ohio State researchers quizzed 219 undergraduates and postgraduates about their study habits and their time spent on Facebook. They found that 65% of Facebook users accessed their accounts daily, usually checking it several times throughout the day to see if they had any new messages.

“Our study shows people who spend more time on Facebook spend less time studying,” said Aryn Karpinski of the education department at Ohio State. Most students surveyed that regularly surf Facebook under-perform on tests— some by as much as a full letter grade. Researchers also found that the common Facebook rituals of finding new friends, adding applications, joining groups and ‘poking’ other users also eats up hours of study time.

Although the smart phone is king of college student technology right now, Michael Hanley, director of Ball State’s Institute for Mobile Media Research said that might not always be the case. Just as smart phones seem to have replaced computers, new devices like the iPad could take over for phones. “College students are the first to adopt new types of communication technologies,” Hanley said. “I think the iPad and similar devices may change the way they communicate yet again as the technology evolves.”


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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