Digital Distraction: Many Students Spend Two-Thirds of School Year Texting & Emailing

In a new study, college students said that they spent 20 percent of classroom time using smartphones and digital devices for activities unrelated to class.

College students in a recent study said that they spent 20 percent of classroom time using smartphones and digital devices for activities unrelated to class.

Nearly 11 percent said they spent more than 50 percent of their class time using digital devices for non-class purposes.

“During the typical four years they’re in college classrooms, the average student may be distracted for two-thirds of a school year,” said survey author Barney McCoy, associate professor of broadcasting and journalism at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The survey included over 675 students in 26 colleges.

The amount of time that college students spend distracted by these devices is on the rise. McCoy first surveyed students in 2013, when smartphones were a bit less ubiquitous in the classroom.

What Activities Claim Their Attention?

In response to the question “If you use a digital device during class for non-class purposes, please describe all those purposes,” the answers were:

  • 87% time texting
  • 76%  email
  • 75% time checking the time
  • 70% – social networking
  • 42% – web surfing
  • 10% – games

Students admitted digital devices can interfere with their learning.

However, most said they won’t (or can’t) change their behavior.

  • 30% believed their digital devices weren’t distracting them from learning.
  • One-fourth said that their used of digital device was their choice.
  • 13% it was worth using digital devices, even if they caused distractions.
  • 11% said they couldn’t stop using digital devices.

McCoy said “It’s not so much a sense of entitlement; it’s their desire to be connected and not wanting to miss a message.”

Boredom was the main reason students used devices during class.

“This suggests a need for students to learn more effective self-control techniques to keep focused on the learning at hand in classroom settings,” McCoy said. “It also suggests instructors might benefit from learning and experimenting with new ways to engage college students in classroom activities.”

Most students didn’t think they should be penalized for using their devices in the classroom.

Student on digital device in class

The journal issue can be found at: http://en.calameo.com/read/00009178915b8f5b352ba
University of Nebraska-Lincoln. (2016, January 15). Digital distraction in class is on the rise. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 18, 2016 from Sciencedaily.com
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