Study: 80% of College Students Say They Text in Class

Most students in a recent survey say digital devices are distracting, but they use them anyway.
nSeika/Flickr

From the front of his classroom, University of Nebraska-Lincoln associate professor Barney McCoy noticed that students’ smart phones were making regular appearances during his classes. When he stood at the back of a colleague's class, he saw many students were using their laptops for non-academic purposes—Facebook, Twitter, and email were often open on students’ screens.

McCoy surveyed 777 college and graduate students in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, North Carolina, and Mississippi, asking about their use of digital devices. He found that almost a third of students used a digital device more than 11 times during classes for non-classroom related activities.

"I don't think students necessarily think it's problematic," McCoy said in a press release about the study. "They think it's part of their lives."

"It's become automatic behavior on the part of so many people—they do it without even thinking about it," he said.

Of the more than 90 percent of respondents who reported using digital devices during class, the vast majority said they were texting.

So, comparing these numbers to the overall survey pool, that means close to 80 percent of the students text in class sometimes.

The majority of the students admitted that using digital devices distracted them during class.

Furthermore, the majority of students said that other students using digital devices was a distraction.

Most professors have tried to limit this distraction: 70 percent of instructors have a policy regarding the use of digital devices in their classrooms. While 54 percent of students said they think there should be a policy on digital distractions in the classroom, only 9 percent of students think digital devices should be completely banned from classrooms.

 
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Julia Ryan is a former producer for TheAtlantic.com.

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