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SISU students pilot 'cell-phone-free' campaign to get rid of 'checking habit'

12 April 2016 | By He Fei, Zheng Hengguang, Yu Yiling, Ma Guanqi, Xia Xi, Yu Shijie, Huang Ye, Zhou Jiawen | SISU and Youth Daily / Edited by Gu Yiqing

  • SISU Library

    The campaign has attracted over 200 participants. Those who have participated for two straight days would be entitled to the opportunity to win library dolls for free.

  • ‘Get Away, My Cell Phone'

    Participating students signed up in the front desk, putting cell phones in the corresponding pockets under special care.

  • ‘Get Away, My Cell Phone'

    Participating students signed up in the front desk, putting cell phones in the corresponding pockets under special care.


eave your phone for two hours, don’t you dare? In Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), students organized a two-day campaign named "get away, cell phones!", calling on students to "hand in" cell phones before entering a study room in the library. This aims to help them concentrate on study without distractions. After two days’ trial, some students say they like this idea, while some doubt the actual effect of such a short-term campaign on students’ habits, and others admit the insecure feeling without phones in hand.

More than 200 students participated

On March 30th and 31st, at 7:00-9:00pm, in SISU’s library lobby, suddenly appeared 108 blue pockets, each labeled with a number. Students were coming to the library lobby, registering and "obediently" handing in cell phones before entering the study room without their phones.

Participants need to fill out a form of name, major, cell phone number and other personal information before putting the phone in a pocket and leaving it under care of staff for two hours. They retrieve cell phones according to this form after study. This whole progress is supervised by library security.

“It’s good to study without a cell phone because you will not be distracted.” said a sophomore student Zhao, a voluntary participant, “often hours pass by without conscious when you dwell on the phone. Previously-scheduled tasks and homework can only be put off till late or even tomorrow.” With a phone in hand, she would usually switch to her phone whenever she got tired of studying, from viewing social networking and shopping on Taobao, to watching Korean soap operas and chatting. She was eager to have a try at the first time she knew about this campaign. After participation she excitedly said to Youth Daily reporter: “This is the first time that I studied for two hours continuously. And I’ve finally completed my plan of memorizing English vocabulary.”

It is reported that this campaign, jointly organized by six internal students from the Students' Federation of SISU Students' Union, is one of the activities held during the 'Student Service Month' in 2016. The 'Cell-phone-free Study Room' Campaign has altogether attracted over 200 participants. Students who have participated for two straight days would be entitled to the opportunity to win library dolls for free.

Getting rid of 'checking habits'

"I realize that nowadays cell phones have been closely attached to us college students. Sometimes it is hard to concentrate on our studies with cell phones at hand." Zheng Letian, a sophomore majoring in International Relations, is the organizer as well as planner of this campaign. Every time when he reviews for mid-term or final examinations, his efficiency is always dissatisfactory due to his playing with cell phone. And looking around the study room in library, Zheng finds quite a number of students staring at their cell phones just like him. 'I pick up my phone and the next thing I know is that a whole afternoon has past." Zheng used to download plenty of "surveillance Apps" such as Forest, yet none of them achieved much effect.

Craving to change the situation, Zheng introduces: "At the end of last year, I learned that there was cell-phone-free classrooms in Shihezi University, where students were forced to keep their phones away from class. It dawned on me that such activity could also be applied to the study room in library." Hence, Zheng Letian, who happens to plan the "Student Service Month" for the Students' Union, starts to plan this campaign together with his "buddies".

Designing posters, recruiting student actors to record publicity videos, releasing WeChat notifications of "Get Away, Cell Phones!—team members have spent more than a month publicizing the campaign.

"As this campaign only lasts for two days, we are aware of its restrictions in manpower, material resources and time, thereby laying a lot of efforts on the promotion and feedback of this campaign in an attempt to make students truly remember this activity and liberate themselves from cell phones." Zheng says that many eye-catching posters have been posted in the library and school buildings.

The click rate of related notification links amounts to over 2500, equal to half of the number of undergraduate students in the university. "Given that the number of project organizers is limited, it is impossible to force students to entirely keep cell phones away. As a matter of fact, this campaign serves as a guide, encouraging students to self-motivatedly participate in it and study by themselves," introduces Zheng Letian.

A new study suggests that the mobile phone as a new influential interpersonal communication for human beings, which has a profound impact on people’s work, study and life. The study confirms what has become common knowledge: smart phones are almost ubiquitous on college campuses, with 99.8 percent of students owning one or more. Many students send short messages under their desks or use the camera on their phones to take photos during class.

Question 1

Is it safe to hand in cell phones to others?

Youth Daily reporter have observed on scene that about forty percent of the participants own iPhones, which are quite costly. Moreover, as the participants can no longer have their phones in sight after they have gone to the study room, what if their phones are lost?

As for this concern, the organizers say that this time not only would there be school guards standing by "safeguarding", but also the six team members have each found a reliable student volunteer to help attend the phones. After the two-day campaign, no phones have been reported missing or mistaken. Zheng Letian introduces: "We have taken precautions about such incidents in advance. If there were phones missing, we six students would make compensation by ourselves. Therefore, during the campaign, we have all spared no efforts attending students' cell phones and the final result shows that we have achieved excellent effects."

Question 2

Are 108 cloth pockets enough for all participants?

Since there is no prior sign-up, the student who is in charge of the event admitted: "I do not know how many students will participate." The event organizer spent nearly 50 yuan on e-commercial platform to purchase 108 pockets, and prepared extra box in case that pockets are not enough .

Are all of the pockets filled in the end?

To this question of Youth Daily reporter, Zheng Letian said that from the actual data, the numbers of participants on those two days are quite the same, reaching slightly over 100 people. "In other words, all 108 pockets were not completely filled." According to Zheng, the volunteers had to be at the library to collect student’s phones at around 7 o’clock every day. To ensure that all participants would have a two-hour study time, no student would be allowed to join in after 7:30 pm. Volunteers would give the phones back to the students in accord with the information they left on a card when the 2 hours is over. If students didn’t come to get their phones, they will be sent to the college.

Will there be similar events in the future, especially during exam week?

In regard of this question, Zheng said that during exam week, there will be a lot more people in the library study room. If the "Cellphone-Free Self-Study" is going to be held at that time, the number of pockets that hold the cellphones certainly need increasing. However, since the event was just finished, when the next event will be, whether it will be during the exam week, whether it is necessary to extend the keeping time of the phone are still unknown. Event organizers hope the school library can take over the job, financing ang purchasing devices that can perform the event.

[Correspondent survey] Can "Cellphone-Free Self-Study" really change students’ habit? Some students say yes, but others disagree.

If the library bans cellphones in the future, will you be okay with that? Li, a senior in SISU, often chooses to review lessons in the self-study room in the library. In her words, using cellphones accelerates the passage of time. "I have tried to put the phone in the dormitory rather than bring it out. The learning efficiency increases dramatically."

Lu Yuanyuan, a two-year SISU student majored in online journalism and new media said that the activity did make a difference. “I managed to study devotedly in two hours while felt sleepy sometimes. It is a matter of self-control,” Lu said.

However, Zhang Yue, a one-year SISU student majored in Korean Studies, said: “I heard that, the nearer the phone is from the body, the more radiation is absorbed. Although carrying a smart phone in my breast or pants pocket may be against my health, electronic dictionaries and online listening materials on the phone do really benefit my study. I think, therefore, it is not necessary to restrict mobile phone usage.”

A junior from the School of Journalism and Communication, Chen, said that he would not participate in such event, and he would definitely not "hand over the phone". "What If there is an emergency happens? Besides, you need to relax while studying, like checking on the phone would be great." In Chen's view, "No cellphone means no security. Who will be responsible if the phone is stolen?" Zhang , a senior majoring in Japanese thinks that learning depends on one’s self-conscious, a "Cellphone-free Study Room” is of no help.

There are other students questioning whether it is going to change anything for just having the events for two days. Zheng Letian admitted: "Certainly, a two-day event will not have immediate effect, habits takes time to develop."

But Zheng explained optimistically, one of the purposes of the event is to provide students with practical services, and the second is to let the students know they can do what they want without sticking on the phone. “I hope the students will recall this event in the future when they are wasting time on their cellphones, forming an implanted memory." Zheng said the event will be launched on a timely basis, hoping that more students can realize the negative impact of cellphone and develop good learning habits. 


Press Contact

SISU News Center, Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Tel : +86 (21) 3537 2378

Email :

Address :550 Dalian Road (W), Shanghai 200083, China

Further Reading