Youngsters feel lost without their phones

Young people often feel lost without their mobile phones, with many finding the prospect of going without their handset unbearable. This is according to a new study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, which found 97.8 per cent of first-year students at five English universities own such a device, with 83.2 per cent of those questioned claiming their phone would be the item they missed the most if they were denied access to it.

Led by Dr Christopher Jones of the Open University, the investigation also revealed many youngsters are distracted by social networking sites at times when they should be concentrating on their studies.

Despite the web and phones being commonly cited as means of preventing scholars from taking to their books, those questioned said they were happy with the situation as most had developed ways to cope with the distractions - such as taking breaks and switching them off at the source.

It was also shown, however, that not all students are technologically savvy, with many confused by the different technologies available.

Dr Jones stated: "The argument that there is a generational break between today's generation of young people who are immersed in new technologies and older generations who are less familiar with technology is flawed."

Chartered Psychologist Dr Caroline Schuster commented: "This investigation by the Open University certainly resonates with a plethora of interest and concern about how young people are using technology, especially mobile phones.

"Professor Cary Cooper's recent Tweet about the new condition nomobophobia (fear associated with not being able to access one's mobile phone) certainly relates to the student response in this ESRC study, demonstrating one negative to using mobile phones.

"However, Phil Topham in his recent article The Future Is Appy, Therapy Today, April 2012, extols the positive side of a new mobile phone app for students with social anxiety in learning situations.

"Such online help apparently aids students in a variety of ways including 'connecting with the individual in a mass education system' - although one can't help but wonder whether the very nature of accessing support online (especially for those with social anxiety) might sometimes be compounding the very problem that is trying to be resolved."