College students can’t go long without checking their smartphones, laptops

Almost every student surveyed said they owned a digital device.

The Facebook tidbits, the Twitter updates, the eMails and instant messages and Craigslist postings – they’re all so tempting. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) student Sarah Barnes says she can ignore them for hours at a time, while many students say they can’t, even for 10 minutes.

Prying herself away from her smartphone and laptop during professors’ lectures isn’t easy, said Barnes, 20, a child development major at SNHU. When she’s not in class though, she’s on her Blackberry or laptop or iPod Touch, sending about 900 text messages every month, playing games, and checking eMail and class websites.

Nearly four in 10 college students said they could not go 10 minutes without checking one of their mobile devices, “about the same amount of time it takes to walk to class,” according to a study released last week by CourseSmart, a leading eTextbook company based in California.

Almost every one of the 500 college students surveyed – 98 percent – said they own a digital device, and many said the technology made more time for their busy schedules. Eighty-five percent of respondents said their devices save time while studying – an average of two hours a day.

Even Barnes, who puts her Blackberry away during class, said the lure of a quick social media check is sometimes too much to resist.

“It has distracted me every now and then in class,” she said. “When I’m on my laptop I would sometimes drift off to Facebook. … But I would say it hasn’t impacted my education very much because I am so focused on getting good grades.”

Scrolling through Facebook news feeds and tweeting with friends and family has, for some college students, become a constant, welcomed interruption.

Kate Caroll, a junior history major at the University of Maryland, College Park, said she checks her smartphone “pretty incessantly,” inside and outside of class.

“The phone never leaves my side, wherever I am,” said Carroll, 33, who has connected with online friends since the mid-1990s, when she frequented web-based bulletin board systems (BBSs). “Even if I’m at home watching TV, I’ll have the phone in my hand, and at the very least, I recheck Facebook during every commercial. I’ll also check it at every red light while I’m driving, and every stop sign if there isn’t anyone behind me.”