Nearly 86 percent of the students surveyed said they text during a class, while 68 percent said they check emails, and 66 percent admitted to using social networks.Thirty-eight percent said they surf the Web and 8 percent said they play a game during classes, found researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).

More than 80 percent students admit that their use of smart phones, tablets and laptops can interfere with their learning. More than a fourth said their grades suffer as a result.

Barney McCoy, an associate professor of broadcasting at UNL, surveyed 777 students at six universities in five US states in 2012 about their classroom use of digital devices for non-instructional purposes.

The students, from UNL and the University of Nebraska at Omaha in Nebraska, Morningside College in Iowa, the University of North Carolina, the University of Kansas and the University of Mississippi, were recruited for the computer survey by classroom instructors via email and personal contact.Thirty-five percent said they used their digital devices for non-classroom purposes 1 to 3 times per day while 27 percent did it 4 to 10 times a day.

Some 16 percent played with their devices 11 to 30 times during the day, and 15 percent did it more than 30 times. Only 8 percent said they never use their devices during class for non-classroom purposes. Also, 79 percent of the students said they used their digital device to check the time. The top advantages of using digital devices for non-class purposes, according to students, are staying connected (70 percent), fighting boredom (55 percent) and doing related class work (49 percent).

However, students downplayed the distraction caused by digital devices. Fewer than 5 percent considered it a "big" or "very big" distraction when classmates used digital devices and fewer than 5 percent considered their own use of a digital device to be a "big" or "very big" distraction.More than half the students said they were "a little" distracted when other students pulled out their devices and nearly 46 percent said they were "a little" distracted by their own use of digital devices.More than 91 percent said they opposed a classroom ban on digital devices. Their preferred policy (72 percent) for dealing with digital distraction is for the instructor to speak to the offender.

They also preferred a first-offence warning, followed by penalties (65 percent) for those caught using devices for non-classroom purposes.


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