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Study Says College Students Text A Lot in Class

As the developing of science and technology and the population of smartphones, tablets and netbooks, more and more students rely on electronics and the Internet—not only in life, but also in class. Barney McCoy, an associate professor of broadcasting from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, embarked upon a study and found that over 90% of college students admit they play with their digital devices in class.

McCoy has seven years of teaching experience in broadcasting. When he noticed the instructional challenges presented by students’ digital devices, he launched a survey covered 777 students at six universities in five states. He also asked the students who have been disrupted by students using digital devices. The study says that more than 90% students use digital devices in class and the average time of using is as high as 11 times per day. 80% of students admit that using smartphones, tablets and laptops could affect their study—over a quarter of the students report of losing grade points due to their digital habits. McCoy pointed out:” Students got their laptops open, but they are not always taking notes. Some may have two screens open—Facebook and their notes.”


Distribution of times for college students using digital devices on non-class purposes. *Image source: Bernard R. McCoy. Journal of Media Education. 2013


The study reveals that only less than 8% students never use digital devices. “I don’t think they believe this is a problem and it has become automatic behavior on the part of so many people that they do it without even thinking about it.” Says McCoy. Students use digital devices mainly to text messages, check emails and stumble upon social networks. In addition, 79% of the students said they used their digital devices to check the time instead of using their watches. The students participated in the survey explained that digital devices can help them keep in touch with each other (even in class), get entertained or kill some boring time. The disadvantages are obvious—they don’t pay attention (90%), miss instruction (80%) or get called out by their instructor (32%).


College students’ non-class purposes on using digital devices in class.


However, students downplayed the distraction caused by digital devices, though a portion of students are experiencing poorer academic performance. Only a very small portion (5%) of students considered their own use of a digital device to be a “big” or “very big” distraction to others. As a result, students don’t want to leave their smartphones at home and they oppose a classroom ban on digital devices.

McCoy said digital distraction is a challenge with which instructors have to continue to wrestle. A 2012 study suggested that two-thirds of students age 18-29 own a smartphone that can access to the Internet. A 2013 study said that 18- to 24-year-olds send and receive an average of 2,853 text messages each month.

As the wide spread of Wi-Fi and population of smartphone, tablets and laptops, it becomes almost impossible to restrict students’ accessing the Internet. To deal with this situation, the only thing instructors can do is to make their lectures more interesting and let students treasure their chance of having class.