Overuse of smartphones ruining ability to study, say many secondary students

Social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram are most popular among students who spend several hours a day online

Many second-level students worry that overuse of smartphones and social media is ruining their ability to focus on study or prepare for exams, according to a survey.

The online poll of 1,065 students, conducted earlier this month, found that 83 per cent of respondents worry that they use their smartphones too much, while 54 per cent said apps such as TikTok and Instagram had seriously impacted their concentration or ability to study.

The annual survey was conducted by study website Studyclix among first- to sixth-year students between May 8th and 9th.

More than a third of students (38 per cent) said they used their phones for more than four hours a day, while one in six (16 per cent) said they used them for six hours or more.


The most popular social media platforms used by respondents were Snapchat and Instagram (both 87 per cent), TikTok (73 per cent), YouTube (71 per cent), and BeReal (49 per cent).

Luke Saunders, a former secondary schoolteacher and founder of Studyclix, said the figures on the extent of phone use in some cases were “staggering”.

“Most parents out there will be aware that their teenager uses their phone a lot. As part of this survey, we asked students to look at their screen time daily average on their phone, so I think these results are a really good reflection of the reality out there,” he said.

“Rather than taking a hard-line no-phone approach, I would suggest parents try make their child become self-aware of their phone use and try some distraction-blocker apps such as Forest App to manage their phone use in a healthier way. Our survey shows that students want to do well in their exams, they know they use their phone too much but they need support in managing distractions.”

Exam stress, meanwhile, remains one of the biggest concerns in students’ lives, the study suggests.

Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of respondents cited exam stress as their chief concern in their daily lives, while two out of three students said they have given up sports or a pastime to focus more on school.

The poll also indicates that students are beginning to experiment with artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as ChatGPT.

One in five students (22 per cent) said they had used Chat GPT to complete school-related tasks including writing essays and creating coding questions. The use of ChatGPT at third level has already sparked a debate about the use of AI in education assessment and project work.

Mr Saunders said he was surprised to see the volume of students using these AI tools for their schoolwork.

“It seems that they are using it for writing essays in English, history and European languages as well as writing code for their computer science class. In an odd way, I think the inevitable rise of ChatGPT and other AI tools will mean that our State exams will remain strictly handwritten exams long into the future,” he said.

In addition to the impact of technology on study, the survey highlighted cost-of-living concerns faced by students, with almost two out of three (64 per cent) concerned about the rising cost of living and the adequacy of student supports.

The survey found that more than one in eight students (13 per cent) said their house was colder due to the cost-of-living crisis. These issues were also influencing where they decide to go to college.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent