College Students Admit To “Shocking” Text Messaging Habits in Class

While teens are renowned for the frequency with which they text, those in the 18-24 age range are also fairly avid text-messagers. According to data released from Nielsen this fall, that age group sends around 1,630 texts per month – roughly three texts per hour. So it’s not terribly surprising that a recent study by two psychology professors at Wilkes University finds that college students text message during class. A 50-minute lecture gives you time to send at least a couple messages, right?

But in the words of the students who took the survey, professors would be “shocked” if they knew how much texting went on in class.

Professors Deborah Tindell and Robert Bohlander asked students from over 250 colleges to assess their text messaging habits; 95% of respondents said they bring their phones to class every day, and almost all of them – 99% – believed they should be allowed to do so.

Texting During Class

According to the study, 91% admitted they have used their phones to text during class. Almost half said it’s easy to get away with doing so without their instructor noticing. And 62% said that they feel they should be allowed to text in class as long they don’t disturb others.

However, students did admit that cellphones could be “disturbing.” About 25% said that texting causes a distraction to those nearby, and 75% said they’ve been disturbed by someone’s phone ringing in class. And about a third of students said they thought that texting in class would be a distraction for the person sending the message, causing a loss of attention and poor grades.

About 10% of college students said they’ve sent or received texts during exams. And 3% said they have actually sent exam information during a test.

The latter is certainly an issue of academic dishonesty, but unlike the terribly low-tech behavior of passing notes, there’s something about cellphone use in classroom that seems to generate a heightened level of concern about college students’ behavior in the classroom.

Engaging Students (With Technology)

The Wilkes University professors offer several pieces of advice to tackle this: design clear classroom policies, walk around the classroom – particularly the back of the class – and avoid paying too much attention to the blackboard. (Seriously.) “Make eye contact.”

Or – and this is my suggestion – we can find ways to engage with students and with technology, using text messaging as a way to field questions and discussion right in class. I mean, eye contact is good, too, though.

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