ISSN 2079-6617
eISSN 2309-9828
Smartphones in Everyday School Life of Adolescents: Participant Observation Study

Smartphones in Everyday School Life of Adolescents: Participant Observation Study

PDF (Rus)

Recieved: 03/02/2023

Accepted: 11/08/2023

Published: 12/10/2023

Keywords: school everyday life; smartphone; digital practices; online; offline; adolescents; ethnography; participant observation

p.: 177-187

DOI: 10.11621/npj.2023.0415

Available online: 10.12.2023

To cite this article:

Yaroshevskaya Svetlana V., Sysoeva Tatiana A.. Smartphones in Everyday School Life of Adolescents: Participant Observation Study. // National Psychological Journal 2023. 4. p.177-187. doi: 10.11621/npj.2023.0415

Copied to Clipboard

Issue 4, 2023

Yaroshevskaya Svetlana V. Federal Scientific Center of Psychological and Multidisciplinary Research

Sysoeva Tatiana A. Federal Scientific Center of Psychological and Multidisciplinary Research


Background. The issue of smartphones in schools has been vigorously discussed over the past few years by school administrators, teachers, and parents. On the one hand, the prospects of using smartphones in the educational process look promising, on the other hand, concerns about negative impact on the learning and development of children are very high. To better understand the ways in which smartphones are changing school life and how they fit into it, a more open-ended analysis than measuring isolated target variables is needed. Qualitative methodology and specifically school ethnography allow us to undertake this kind of approach.

Objective. The research aims to study the ways in which smartphones are integrated into the school life of Russian teenagers through participant observation.

Methods. Long-term participant observation (school ethnography), consisting in about 350 hours of observations with qualitative data analysis were applied.

Sample. A class of students aged from 13 to 14 years old at a Moscow secondary school.

Results. Adolescents use smartphones a lot at school, both during breaks and in class, although there are individual differences. In all areas (communication, education, entertainment, creativity), schoolchildren are able and sometimes prefer to do without a smartphone. The smartphone is an important means of communication not only online (within the device) but also offline (about the content or the device itself). Smartphone use is often combined with silent intimacy (schoolchildren gather in a group and silently use smartphones) or a lively dialogue. In learning, students use smartphoneы either in an approved by adults (access to MES, digital assignments, etc.) or in a disapproved (cheating, etc.) mode. Students successfully implement various practices of resistance against smartphone bans. In the absence of external control, there is a group dynamics of “smartphone saturation” which implies switching from the phone to offline reality.

Conclusion. Smartphones are an integral element of school everyday life partly due to the demands of adults. Adolescents’ media multitasking described by other researchers is confirmed in our observations and is partly caused by a large workload organized by adults. Our data on the absence of negative reactions to the interlocutor’s use of a smartphone during conversations disagree with the works on phubbing and require further clarification. Daily school routine is heavily driven by teachers’ disciplinary practices towards smartphones while students’ resistance practices call into question the feasibility of a smartphone ban in schools.


Alirezabeigi, S., Masschelein, J., & Decuypere, M. (2020). Investigating digital doings through breakdowns: a sociomaterial ethnography of a Bring Your Own Device school. Learning, Media and Technology, 45(2), 193–207. 84.2020.1727501

Al‐Saggaf, Y., & O’Donnell, S.B. (2019). Phubbing: Perceptions, reasons behind, predictors, and impacts. Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies, 1, 132–140.

Busch, P.A., & McCarthy, S. (2020). Antecedents and consequences of problematic smartphone use: A systematic literature review of an emerging research area. Computers in Human Behavior, 114, 106414.

Cha, S.-S., & Seo, B.-K. (2018). Smartphone use and smartphone addiction in middle school students in Korea: Prevalence, social networking service, and game use. Health Psychology Open, 5(1).

de Almeida, A.N., Delicado, A., de Almeida Alves, N., & Carvalho, T. (2015). Internet, children and space: Revisiting generational attributes and boundaries. New Media & Society, 17(9), 1436–1453.

Green, M. (2019). Smartphones, Distraction Narratives, and Flexible Pedagogies: Students’ Mobile Technology Practices in Networked Writing Classrooms. Computers and Composition, 52, 91–106.

Hadad, S., Meishar-Tal, H., & Blau, I. (2020). The parents’ tale: Why parents resist the educational use of smartphones at schools? Computers & Education, 157, 103984.

Haddon, L., & Vincent, J. (2015). UK children’s experience of smartphones and tablets: perspectives from children, parents and teachers. LSE, London: Net Children Go Mobile.

Hietajärvi, L., Seppä, J., & Hakkarainen, K. (2016). Dimensions of adolescents’ socio-digital participation. Qwerty, 11(2), 79–98.

Hohti, R., Paakkari, A., & Stenberg, K. (2019). Smartphones. Leaping and Dancing with Digitality: Exploring Human-Smartphone-Entanglements in Classrooms. In P. Rautio, E. Stenvall (Eds.) Social, Material and Political Constructs of Arctic Childhoods. Children: Global Posthumanist Perspectives and Materialist Theories (pp. 85–102). Singapore: Springer. https://doi. org/10.1007/978-981-13-3161-9_6

Højholt, C., & Kousholt D. (2014). Participant observation of children’s communities: Exploring subjective aspects of social practice. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 11, 1–19.

Ito, M., Baumer, S., Boyd, D., Cody, R., Herr-Stephenson, B., Horst, H.A., Lange, P.G., Mahendran, D., Martinez, K.Z., Pascoe, C.J., Perkel, D., Robinson, L., Sims, C., & Tripp, L. (2010). Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Jeffery, C.P. (2021). Parenting in the digital age: Between socio-biological and socio-technological development. New Media & Society, 23(5), 1045–1062.

Koroleva, D.O. (2016a). Always Online: Using Mobile Technology and Social Media at Home and at School. Voprosy obrazovaniya (Educational Issues), 1, 205–224. (In Russ.).

Koroleva, D.O. (2016b). A study of the daily life of modern teenagers: the presence in social networks as an integral component of communication. Sovremennaya zarubezhnaya psikhologiya (Journal of Modern Foreign Psychology), 5(2), 55–61. https://doi. org/10.17759/jmfp.2016050207. (In Russ.).

Lareau, A. (2021). Listening to People: A Practical Guide to Interviewing, Participant Observation, Data Analysis, and Writing It All Up. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Li, S., Hietajärvi, L., Palonen, T., Salmela-Aro, K., & Hakkarainen, K. (2017). Adolescents’ Social Networks: Exploring Different Patterns of Socio-Digital Participation. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 61(3), 255–274. 0313831.2015.1120236

Livingstone, S., & Sefton-Green, J. (2016). The Class: Living and Learning in the Digital Age. New York: New York University Press.

Machmud, K. (2018). The Smartphone Use in Indonesian Schools: The High School Students’ Perspectives. Journal of Arts & Humanities, 7(3), 33–40.

Mavhunga, F.Z., Kibirige, I., Chigonga, B., & Ramaboka, M. (2016). Smartphones in public secondary schools: views of matric graduates. Perspectives in Education, 34(3), 72–85.

May, K.E., & Elder, A.D. (2018). Efficient, helpful, or distracting? A literature review of media multitasking in relation to academic performance. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 15, 13.

Ng, S.F., Hassan, N.S.I.C., Nor, N.H.M., & Malek, N.A.A. (2017). The Relationship between Smartphone Use and Academic Performance: A Case of Students in A Malaysian Tertiary Institution. Malaysian Online Journal of Educational Technology, 5(4), 58–70.

Paakkari, A., Rautio, P., & Valasmo, V. (2019). Digital labour in school: Smartphones and their consequences in classrooms. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 21, 161–169.

Rafalow, H.M. (2020). Digital Divisions: How Schools Create Inequality in the Tech Era. First Edition. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Sahlström, F., Tanner, M., & Valasmo, V. (2019). Connected youth, connected classrooms. Smartphone use and student and teacher participation during plenary teaching. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 21, 311–331. lcsi.2019.03.008

Selwyn, N., Nemorin, S., Bulfin, S., & Johnson, N.F. (2017). Left to their own devices: the everyday realities of one-to-one classrooms. Oxford Review of Education, 43(3), 289–310.

Soldatova, G.U., & Rasskazova, E.I. (2017). The “digital” developmental situation of intergenerational relations: the gap and interaction between adolescents and parents on the Internet. Mir psikhologii (The World of Psychology), 1(89), 134–143. (In Russ.).

Soldatova, G.U., Chigarkova, S.V., Drenyova, A.A., & Koshevaya, A.G. (2020). The Julius Caesar Effect: types of media tasking in children and adolescents. Voprosy psihologii (Questions in Psychology), 66(4), 54–69. (In Russ.).

Soldatova, G.U., Chigarkova, S.V., Koshevaya, A.G., & Nikonova, E.Yu. (2022). Daily Activities of Adolescents in Mixed Reality: User Activity and Multitasking. Sibirskii psikhologicheskii zhurnal (Siberian Psychological Journal), 83, 20–45. https://doi. org/10.17223/17267080/83/2. (In Russ.).

Starkey, L., Eppel, E.A., & Sylvester, A. (2019). How do 10-year-old New Zealanders participate in a digital world? Information, Communication & Society, 22(13), 1929–1944.

Valasmo, V., Paakkari, A., & Sahlström, F. (2022). The device on the desk — a sociomaterial analysis of how Snapchat adapts to and participates in the classroom. Learning, Media and Technology.

To cite this article:

Yaroshevskaya Svetlana V., Sysoeva Tatiana A.. Smartphones in Everyday School Life of Adolescents: Participant Observation Study. // National Psychological Journal 2023. 4. p.177-187. doi: 10.11621/npj.2023.0415

Copied to Clipboard