Study of the Day: Yes, Students Know When to Put the Tech Away

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Worried about your kid's midterms? Don't be. New research shows that students choose to limit their use of technology before big exams.

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PROBLEM: Today's students are often derided as heavy multitaskers who are unable to concentrate because of their many devices. Can they focus on studying during exam season?

METHODOLOGY: University of Washington researchers observed and interviewed 560 college students in 11 libraries around the country near exam time last spring.

RESULTS: Most students used one or two devices to engage in two primary activities -- coursework and, to a lesser extent, communication. Despite the many distractions online, 61 percent of students opened only one or two websites at a time. Many visited the library to limit technology-based distractions, while some simply left their laptops at home. Even their behavior toward distractions like Facebook changed, using time with social media as a reward after 15, 30, or 60 minutes of study.

CONCLUSION: College students head to the library and reduce their use of electronics weeks away from major exams.

IMPLICATION: During crunch time, students manage their use of technology. Author Alison Head says in a news release: "Students may be applying self-styled strategies for dialing down technology when the pressure is most on them."

SOURCE: A version of the report (PDF), "Balancing Act: How College Students Manage Technology While in the Library During Crunch Time," will be submitted to Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society for peer review and publication.

Image: wavebreakmedia ltd/Shutterstock.

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Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

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