Students Can Exhibit Discretionary Responding to Texts Social Media Messages During Class: Fact or Fiction?

Fatma Arslantas, Eileen Wood, Brooke Boersen, Victoria Pulla, Monika Ferrier


Terms such as ‘compulsion’ and ‘addiction’ are often used when describing young adults’ response behaviors regarding texts and messages. Purpose of the Research: The present study documents response patterns for texts and messages in a higher education classroom context. Both the number of texts and messages responded to and the time taken between receipt and response were examined. These measures, as well as perceptions about multitasking and learning, were examined with respect to performance for lecture content. Students were assigned to either a texting or social media message condition. Within each of these conditions, students were either instructed to respond to texts/messages immediately or at their own discretion. Principal Results: Consistent with characterizations of habits/compulsions, the majority of participants in all conditions responded to most of the individual texts/messages. In no condition did all participants respond to all of the texts/messages. Students in the discretionary texting condition took longer to reply to texts/messages than those in the immediate social media condition for the vast majority of texts/messages received. Higher performance scores were found for test items not associated with the arrival of texts/messages. Students acknowledged some potential for multitasking to impact learning, however, these perceptions were not related to the volume or timing of text/message responses. Major Conclusions: This study identifies that students responding to texts/messages in the educational context is more complex than a simple habitual behaviour and that the pervasiveness may make the behavior a challenge even in live lecture contexts. 

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Copyright (c) 2019 International Journal of Higher Education

International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online) Email:

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