Text messaging: a lecture hall epidemic?

Setting strict text-message rules could be key to limiting texting in class.

College students say their professors would be “shocked” to know just how often they send text messages during lectures, and one researcher has offered a simple and stringent solution: Give failing grades to text-happy students.

Nine in 10 students said in a Wilkes University study released this month that they have sent and received texts during class, although a much smaller portion of students believe educators should allow unlimited texting in class as long as it doesn’t disturb others.

Wilkes psychology professors Deborah Tindell and Robert Bohlander created a 32-question survey gauging texting habits that was answered by 269 students on the Wilkes-Barre, Pa., campus.

Their research showed the ubiquity of cell phones on college campuses—95 percent of respondents said they take their phone to class—and the prevalence of easy-to-use “QUERTY” keyboards on mobile devices, Tindell said.

“It’s becoming a bigger issue as cell phones are changing,” she said. “Technology has changed pretty drastically in the past few years. … You used to have some proficient texters, and that was it. Now, almost everyone does it.”

A quarter of Wilkes students said that “texting creates a distraction to those sitting nearby” in a classroom or lecture hall. Three-quarters of respondents said they have been disturbed by the ringing of another student’s phone.

And many students admit that texting in class doesn’t rank among the most effective academic behaviors.

One-third of Wilkes students said students who text message during class “would be affected … through a loss of attention and/or poor grades in the class,” according to the research results.

Research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows that half of teenagers surveyed send 1,500 text messages a month, and one-third of survey respondents send 100 texts every day, or 3,000 per month.

Including a concise text-messaging policy in the start-of-semester syllabus, Tindell said, is a key to limiting texting in class. Once texting rules are in place, she said, “students don’t seem to object too much.”

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