Study: 97% of college students are distracted by phones during class

Texting, email, social media the biggest distractions

Around 97% of college students use their phones during class for non-educational purposes, according to a study published last month in Journal of Media Education.

The survey looked at self-reported information from 675 undergraduate and graduate students in 26 states between 18 and 22 years of age.

Forty-one percent of respondents said that they spent up to 10% of their classroom time using digital devices for non-educational purposes, and another 20% reported spending between 11% and 20% of class time on their devices. Only 3% said they do not use a device during class for non-class-related activities on a typical day.

About 90% of respondents said texting is their main distraction in classes. Other distractions included:

  • About 75% of respondents said they sent email or checked the time;
  • 70% used social media during class time;
  • 40% surfed the Internet; and
  • 10% played games.

"Young people turn to digital media as an immediate way to relieve boredom and, sadly, the classroom is one of the environments in which they most commonly experience boredom," says Scott Campbell, an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan.

How excessive cellphone use could be hurting students

Using devices in classrooms is part of a growing trend, according to the researchers. In 2013, 8% of surveyed students said they never used devices for non-class related activities, but this number dropped to 3% by 2015.

But the research is inconclusive about whether using devices during lectures will translate to lower grades. It depends on many factors, such as the size of the class and what is being taught, Campbell says.

"I have seen studies that show lower grades as the result of digital distraction, and other studies where there is no significant effect on grades," he says (Mozes, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 1/28).


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