Downsides of smartphones for students

June 1, 2021

Forget PPE or vaccines – it appears nurses are no more immune to the risks of the digital age than everyday people.

A new review has found mixing smartphones and study, for nursing students, can come with its downsides – including digital addiction.

Whitireia nursing tutor Belinda McGrath was part of an international team that published the review on the impacts of smartphones on nursing students.

‘The negative impact of smartphone usage on nursing students: An integrative literature review’ took a fresh look at the downsides of digital reliance.

Results from research in countries such as Korea, Turkey, France, Canada and Egypt found “worrying” smartphone addiction amongst nursing students.

The devices have been snapped up as a useful study tool – allowing quick, portable access to textbooks, pharmacology resources, and standards for practice.

However, McGrath said while using the “wonderful world of digital knowledge” could help students, the review found a worrying level of negative impacts.

These impacts “caused stress and anxiety, and adversely affected sleep, learning and academic performance, as a result of a reliance on this learning resource”, she said.

The review said nursing students reported significant benefits to smartphone use, which extend beyond learning, “to include enhanced communication, clinical decision making and evidence-based practice.

“Despite these benefits, little is known about the negative impact of smartphones on student learning.”

The review found personal smartphone use was reported “to be a distraction within clinical and classroom learning, and considered as uncivil, and compromised professionalism… Frequently, smartphones were used for entertainment… rather than professional purposes.”

A concerning level of nomophobia (fear of losing your cellphone) and smartphone addiction was found among nursing students.

Excessive smartphone use among nursing students “may adversely affect physical and mental health and potentially impact on student learning within the classroom and clinical environment”.

McGrath said the right policies needed to be put in place, in training, to ensure “a positive outcome” from smartphone use as part of the nursing curriculum. “We are currently doing research into this to inform development of policies and guidelines to address this, which can complement Whitireia’s current ICT policies.”