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Updated 23 May 2014

Lots of texting, emailing going on in college classrooms

A study conducted among students at American colleges shows they are using smartphones, tables and laptops during lectures and their grades suffer.

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When they should be listening to their instructors, today's college students are instead using their phones or tablets 11 times per day while in class, a new study contends.

More than 80% of students in the US said they knew that such use of smartphones, tablets and laptops can interfere with their learning and more than a quarter said their grades suffer as a result, according to the survey of nearly 800 students at six universities in five states.

"I don't think students necessarily think it's problematic," study author Barney McCoy, an associate professor of broadcasting at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, said in a university news release.

"They think it's part of their lives."

Digital devices

Overall, 35% of the students interviewed said they used digital devices for non-classroom purposes one to three times per day, another 27% did so four to 10 times per day, 16% did so 11 to 30 times per day and 15% did so more than 30% a day.

The study found that only 8% said they never used devices for non-classroom purposes while in class.

Nearly 86% of students said they were texting; 68% said they were checking email; 66% said they were using social networks; 38% said they were surfing the internet and 8% said they were playing a game during class.

McCoy said he had been surprised to find that 79% of the students used their digital devices to check the time.

"That's a generational thing to me -- a lot of young people don't wear watches," he said.

Distraction

Students said the most common disadvantages of using digital devices for non-educational purposes while in the classroom were not paying attention (90%), missing instruction (80%), being reprimanded by the instructor (32%) and losing grade points (more than 25% ).

Less than 5% of students considered it a "very big" or "big" distraction when classmates used digital devices and less than 5% believed their own use of a digital device to be a "very big" or "big" distraction.

More than half, however, said they were a "little" distracted when classmates used digital devices and nearly 46% said they were a "little" distracted by their own use of digital devices. Less than 17% said the use of digital devices was not a distraction.

More information

The Nemours Foundation offers teens tips for going to college.

 
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