Multitasking Among College Students: Are Freshmen More Distracted?

Multitasking Among College Students: Are Freshmen More Distracted?

Julie A. Delello (College of Education and Psychology, The University of Texas at Tyler, Tyler, TX, USA), Carla A. Reichard (The University of Texas at Tyler, Tyler, TX, USA) and Kouider Mokhtari (The University of Texas at Tyler, Tyler, TX, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/IJCBPL.2016100101
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Abstract

Using a time-diary, the authors asked 935 undergraduate college students to report on their multi-tasking habits while engaged in four main activities: reading for fun, watching TV, reading for school purposes, and using the Internet. The authors examined student data to find out (a) whether their multi-tasking habits vary significantly by college classification and (b) whether they felt the time spent multitasking in one activity interfered with or displaced time spent on other activities. It was found that first year college freshmen multitasked significantly more than upper class students. However, students' perceptions relative to whether they felt the time spent multitasking in one activity interfered with or displaced time spent on other activities did not significantly differ by college classification. These findings have important implications for understanding the multitasking habits among college students.
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Literature Review

In a generation of “always-on connectivity” (Anderson & Rainie, 2014), we are constantly subjected to an unprecedented number of interruptions. We take phone calls, read and text messages, look at social media, and watch television while eating, commuting, and performing other daily tasks. And for many of us, this leads to multitasking, performing two or more of these tasks at the same time (Mokhtari et al., 2015). For college students, who have grown up with information and communication technologies (ICTs), multitasking has become a common behavior (Junco & Cotton, 2012; Rosen, Carrier, & Cheever, 2013). Much of this is related to the increase in the use of Internet ready mobile devices. In fact, the typical college student spends an average of 1.4 hours on Facebook, sends an average of 96 text messages, and receives nearly 104 text messages per day (Junco & Cotton, 2011). Jacobsen and Forste (2011) reported that almost two-thirds of students surveyed reported multitasking with ICTs while doing schoolwork. Time Magazine referred to the generation of multitaskers who can email, download, and do school work as Generation M (Wallis, 2006). However, recent research has shown that the less time students in high school spent studying, the more they are distracted by other activities such as social media and the Internet when studying in their first year of college (NSSE, 2015).

There are many explanations as to why students multitask. As we continually perceive a shortage of time and an acceleration of the pace of daily life (Southerton & Tomlinson, 2005), multitasking has been touted as a means to get things done (Ellis, Daniels, & Jauregui, 2010). Other researchers have noted that students engage in multitasking for fun, entertainment, relaxation (Wang & Tchernev, 2012), and empowerment (Levitin, 2014). Some college students have even reported that they constantly check their smartphones to prevent boredom in the classroom (McCoy, 2015; Smith, 2015). Rosen et al. (2013) suggested that young adults have developed a compulsive, anxiety-laden behavior; they actually fear missing out on something if not constantly connected.

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