As Malaysia is progressing towards 5G – the fifth generation of mobile technology – one of the important aspects that requires public attention is the ways that smartphones are impacting human psychology especially among the students. A recent report by the Internet Consumer Survey 2018 published by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) revealed that on average, Malaysians spent 6.6 hours per day browsing the internet, with 93% of them accessing the internet using their smartphones. MCMC through its Hand Phone Users Surveys that were published between the years 2009 to 2017 also reported that teenagers and young adults dominated the number of mobile phone users in Malaysia. Indeed, Malaysia is not the only country experiencing such phenomenon, as the same issue has also raised the concerns among the world leaders and educators, made evident by UNICEF’s 2017 report, “Children in Digital World”. In a more recent development, social scientists especially the psychologists have been exploring the impact of smartphones on students’ physical development and psychological well-being through various research.

Dr. Narina making her points during the talk

These are among the points highlighted by Dr. Narina A. Samah, an associate professor from the School of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities (FSSH) during her talk as an invited speaker at the 9th International Conference on Non-Ionizing Radiation (ICNIR 2019). The conference was organized by the Malaysian Nuclear Agency, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), Energy Commission and MCMC, and was held at Hotel Istana, Kuala Lumpur from 1-3 October 2019, with the theme of “5G: Transforming Our Future”. Over 100 local and international researchers, academics and representatives from the industry came together to share the latest updates and research findings on non-ionizing radiation (NRI) in relation to the advancement of 5G technology and its impact on various socio-economic aspects.

Prof. Rodney Croft (standing in front of the microphone) from the University of Wollongong participated in the Q&A session during the talk.

On the same platform, Dr. Narina also shared some insights from a publication she co-authored entitled “Impact of smartphone: a review on positive and negative effects on students”. The paper, published in 2018, was based on a review of past literature from 2010 to 2017 which suggested that the outcomes of smartphones use could be either positively or negatively effecting students’ life, particularly on the educational aspect, their psychological well-being and social interaction. It is observed that more current studies accentuating the negative impact of smartphones on psychological well-being of children, adolescents and young adults which include depression, anxiety, emotional instability, aggression and nomophobia have been conducted. Additionally, Dr. Narina also updated the audience with her latest project that is being carry out by her PhD students, Manvin Kaur which explores the relationship between stress, emotional regulation strategies and problematic smartphones among the Malaysian university students, as well as the mediating effect of smartphone use motive on these variables. “For better or worse, the advancement of digital technology will irreversibly affect our lives, especially among the younger generation, and this will inevitably generate continuous academic debate”, said Dr. Narina in her concluding remarks.

Posted and edited by Dr Hadijah Jaffri

Credit to the organising committee who took the pictures and Dr Narina who provided me with the information about the conference.