Today’s traditional-aged college students are avid users of mobile technology. Commonly referred to as the Net Generation, today’s college students spend several hours each day using their smart phones, iPads, and laptops. Although some scholars initially opined that the Net Generation would grow into technologically savvy digital natives who would leverage their unprecedented access to technology for professional and academic betterment, contemporary research has rejected the digital native myth. Instead, college students frequently use mobile technology for off-task purposes while attending classroom lectures or doing schoolwork outside of class—a phenomenon known as cyber-slacking. This article provides college educators with an overview of the frequency and consequences of cyber-slacking inside and outside the classroom and seven instructional implications for curbing cyber-slacking. Proposed strategies for curbing cyber-slacking include rejecting the digital native myth, adopting and enforcing technology policies, consciousness raising, motivating students to relinquish their devices, incorporating active learning in the classroom, using mobile technology as a teaching tool, teaching students to be self-regulated learners, and motivating students to delay gratification from their mobile devices.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Aagaard, J. (2015). Drawn to distraction: A qualitative study of off-task use of educational technology. Computers & Education, 87, 90–97.
Aguilar-Roca, N. M., Williams, A. E., & O’Dowd, D. K. (2012). The impact of laptop-free zones on student performance and attitudes in large lectures. Computers & Education, 59(4), 1300–1308.
Aldridge, M., & DeLucia, R. (1989). Boredom: The academic plague of first year students. Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 1(2), 43–56.
Atchley, P., Atwood, S., & Boulton, A. (2011). The choice to text and drive in younger drivers: Behavior may shape attitude. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 43(1), 134–142.
Baker, W. M., Lusk, E. J., & Neuhauser, K. L. (2012). On the use of cell phones and other electronic devices in the classroom: Evidence from a survey of faculty and students. Journal of Education for Business, 87(5), 275–289.
Bellur, S., Nowak, K. L., & Hull, K. S. (2015). Make it our time: In class multitaskers have lower academic performance. Computers in Human Behavior, 53, 63–70.
Bembenutty, H. (2011). Academic delay of gratification and academic achievement. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2011(126), 55–65. doi:10.1002/d.444.
Bembenutty, H. (2008). Academic delay of gratification and expectancy-value. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 193–202.
Bembenutty, H. (2009). Academic delay of gratification, self-regulation of learning, gender differences, and expectancy-value. Personality and Individual Differences, 46, 347–352.
Bembenutty, H. (1999). Sustaining motivation and academic goals: The role of academic delay of gratification. Learning and Individual Differences, 11(3), 233–257.
Bembenutty, H., & Karabenick, S. A. (1998). Academic delay of gratification. Learning and Individual Differences, 10(4), 329–346.
Berry, M. J., & Westfall, A. (2015). Dial D for distraction: The making and breaking of cell phone policies in the college classroom. College Teaching, 63(2), 62–71.
Bjornsen, C. A., & Archer, K. J. (2015). Relations between college students’ cell phone use during class and grades. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 1(4), 326–336.
Boice, B. (1996). Classroom incivilities. Research in Higher Education, 37(4), 453–486.
Bowman, L. L., Levine, L. E., Waite, B. M., & Gendron, M. (2010). Can students really multitask? An experimental study of instant messaging. Computers & Education, 54, 927–931.
Calderwood, C., Ackerman, P. L., & Conklin, E. M. (2014). What else do college students “do” while studying? An investigation of multitasking. Computers & Education, 75, 19–29.
Calderwood, C., Green, J. D., Joy-Gaba, J. A., & Moloney, J. M. (2016). Forecasting errors in student media multitasking during homework completion. Computers & Education, 94, 37–48.
Clayson, D. E., & Haley, D. A. (2013). An introduction to multitasking and texting prevalence and impact on grades and GPA in marketing classes. Journal of Marketing Education, 35(1), 26–40.
Cohen, M. (2012). The importance of self-regulation for college student learning. College Student Journal, 46(4), 892–902.
Dietz, S., & Henrich, C. (2014). Texting as a distraction to learning in college students. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, 163–167.
Dochy, F., Segers, M., Van den Bossche, P., & Gijbels, D. (2003). Effects of problem-based learning: A meta-analysis. Learning and Instruction, 13(5), 533–568.
Dreikurs, R., Grunwald, B. B., & Pepper, F. C. (1971). Maintaining sanity in the classroom: Illustrated teaching techniques. New York: Harper & Row.
Duncan, D. K., Hoekstra, A. R., & Wilcox, B. R. (2012). Digital devices, distraction, and student performance: Does in-class cell phone use reduce learning? Astronomy Education Review, 11(1), 1–4.
Emanuel, R. C. (2013). The American college student cell phone survey. College Student Journal, 47(1), 75–81.
Finn, A. N., & Ledbetter, A. M. (2013). Teacher power mediates the effects of technology policies on teacher credibility. Communication Education, 62(1), 26–47.
Flanigan, A. E., & Babchuk, W. A. (2016). Cyber-slacking in the classroom: Comparing student and instructor experiences in the digital age. Paper presented at the 35th National Research-to-Practice Conference in Adult and Higher Education, Albuquerque, NM.
Flanigan, A. E., & Babchuk, W. A. (2015). Social media as academic quicksand: A phenomenological study of student experiences in and out of the classroom. Learning and Individual Differences, 44, 40–45.
Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. In B. Alberts (Ed.), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (pp. 8410–8415). San Francisco: National Academy of Sciences.
Fried, C. B. (2008). In-class laptop use and its effects on student learning. Computers & Education, 50(3), 906–914.
Gerow, J. E., Galluch, P. S., & Thatcher, J. B. (2010). To slack or not to slack: Internet usage in the classroom. Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application, 11(3), 5–23.
Goetz, T., & Hall, N. C. (2014). Academic boredom. In R. Pekrun & L. Linnenbrink-Garcia (Eds.), International handbook of emotions in education (pp. 311–330). New York: Routledge.
Griffiths, M. D. (2000). Does internet and computer “addiction” exist? Some case study evidence. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 3(2), 211–218.
Griffiths, M. D. (2012). Facebook addiction: concerns, criticism, and recommendations—a response to Andreassen and colleagues. Psychological Reports, 110(2), 518–520.
Hammer, R., Ronen, M., Sharon, A., Lankry, T., Huberman, Y., & Zamtsov, V. (2010). Mobile culture in college lectures: Instructors’ and students’ perspectives. Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning & Learning Objects, 6, 293–304.
Harrison, M. A., & Gilmore, A. L. (2012). U txt WHEN? College students’ social contexts of text messaging. The Social Science Journal, 49(4), 513–518.
Hill, L., Rybar, J., Styer, T., Fram, E., Merchant, G., & Eastman, A. (2015). Prevalence of and attitudes about distracted driving in college students. Traffic Injury Prevention, 16(4), 362–367.
Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2000). Millennials rising: The next great generation. New York: Vintage.
Imazeki, J. (2014). Bring-your-own-device: Turning cell phones into forces for good. The Journal of Economic Education, 45(3), 240–250.
Jacobsen, W. C., & Forste, R. (2011). The wired generation: Academic and social outcomes of electronic media use among university students. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(5), 275–280. doi:10.1089/cyber.2010.0135.
Johnson, Z. D., Claus, C. J., Goldman, Z. W., & Sollitto, M. (2017). College student misbehaviors: An exploration of instructor perceptions. Communication Education, 66(1), 54–69.
Junco, R. (2012). Too much face and not enough books: The relationship between multiple indices of Facebook use and academic performance. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(1), 187–198.
Junco, R., & Cotten, S. R. (2012). No A 4 U: The relationship between multitasking and academic performance. Computers & Education, 59, 505–514.
Katz, L., & Lambert, W. (2016). A happy and engaged class without cell phones? It’s easier than you think. Teaching of Psychology, 43(4), 340–345.
Kornhauser, Z. G. C., Paul, A. L., & Siedlecki, K. L. (2016). An examination of students’ use of technology for non-academic purposes in the college classroom. Journal of Teaching and Learning with Technology, 5(1), 1–15.
Kraushaar, J. M., & Novak, D. C. (2010). Examining the affects of student multitasking with laptops during the lecture. Journal of Information Systems Education, 21(2), 241–251.
Kuznekoff, J. H., Munz, S., & Titsworth, S. (2015). Mobile phones in the classroom: Examining the effects of texting, twitter, and message content on student learning. Communication Education, 64(3), 344–365.
Kuznekoff, J. H., & Titsworth, S. (2013). The impact of mobile phone usage on student learning. Communication Education, 62(3), 233–252.
Langmia, K., & Glass, A. (2014). Coping with smart phone ‘distractions’ in a college classroom. Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication, 4(1), 13–23.
Lawson, D., & Henderson, B. B. (2015). The costs of texting in the classroom. College Teaching, 63, 119–124.
Lepp, A., Barkley, J. E., & Karpinski, A. C. (2015). The relationship between cell phone use and academic performance in a sample of US college students. SAGE Open, 5(1), 1–9.
Lepp, A., Barkley, J. E., & Karpinski, A. C. (2014). The relationship between cell phone use, academic performance, anxiety, and satisfaction with life in college students. Computers in Human Behavior, 31(1), 343–350.
Mann, S., & Robinson, A. (2009). Boredom in the lecture theatre: An investigation into the contributors, moderators and outcomes of boredom amongst university students. British Educational Research Journal, 35(2), 243–258.
McCoy, B. R. (2013). Digital distractions in the classroom: Student classroom use of digital devices for non-class related purposes. Journal of Media Education, 4(4), 5–14.
McCoy, B. R. (2016). Digital distractions in the classroom phase II: Student classroom use of digital devices for non-class related purposes. Journal of Media Education, 7(1), 5–32.
McKeachie, W. J., Pintrich, P. R., & Lin, Y. G. (1985). Teaching learning strategies. Educational Psychologist, 20(3), 153–160.
Mega, C., Ronconi, L., & De Beni, R. (2014). What makes a good student? How emotions, self-regulated learning, and motivation contribute to academic achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(1), 121–131.
Meyers, C., & Jones, T. B. (1993). Promoting active learning. Strategies for the college classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc..
Mokharti, K., Delello, J., & Reichard, C. (2015). Connected yet distracted: Multitaskingamong college students. Journal of College Reading and Learning, 45(2), 164–180.
Nett, U. E., Goetz, T., & Hall, N. C. (2011). Coping with boredom in school: An experience sampling perspective. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 36(1), 49–59.
Pettijohn, T. F., Frazier, E., Rieser, E., Vaughn, N., & Hupp-Wildsde, B. (2015). Classroom texting in college students. College Student Journal, 49(4), 513–516.
Pielot, M., Dingler, T., Pedro, J. S., & Oliver, N. (2015). When attention is not scarce-detecting boredom from mobile phone usage. In Proceedings of the 2015 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (pp. 825–836). ACM.
Prensky, M. (2001a). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1–6.
Ragan, E. D., Jennings, S. R., Massey, J. D., & Doolittle, P. E. (2014). Unregulated use of laptops in large lecture classes. Computers & Education, 78, 78–86.
Ravizza, S. M., Hambrick, D. Z., & Fenn, K. M. (2014). Non-academic internet use in the classroom is negatively related to classroom learning regardless of intellectual ability. Computers & Education, 78, 109–114.
Roberts, J., Yaya, L., & Manolis, C. (2014). The invisible addiction: Cell-phone activities and addiction among male and female college students. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 3(4), 254–265.
Rosen, L. D., Carrier, L. M., & Cheever, N. A. (2013). Facebook and texting made me do it: Media-induced task-switching while studying. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3), 948–958.
Sana, F., Weston, T., & Cepeda, N. J. (2013). Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. Computers & Education, 62, 24–31.
Schlehofer, M. M., Thompson, S. C., Ting, S., Ostermann, S., Nierman, A., & Skenderian, J. (2010). Psychological predictors of college students’ cell phone use while driving. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 42(4), 1107–1112.
Schunk, D. H., & Zimmerman, B. J. (Eds.). (1998). Self-regulated learning: From teaching to self-reflective practice. New York: Guilford Press.
Shon, H., & Smith, L. (2011). A review of poll everywhere audience response system. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 29(3), 236–245.
Stebbins, R. (1971). The meaning of disorderly behavior: Teacher definitions of a classroom situation. Sociology of Education, 44, 217–236.
Switzer, J. S., & Switzer, R. V. (2013). The myth of the tech-savvy student: The role of mediaeducators in a web 2.0 world. Journal of Media Education, 4(4), 15–27.
Svinicki, M. D., & McKeachie, W. J. (2014). McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (14th ed.). Belmont: Wadsworth.
Taneja, A., Fiore, V., & Fischer, B. (2015). Cyber-slacking in the classroom: Potential for digital distraction in the new age. Computers & Education, 82, 141–151.
Tapscott, D. (2008). Grown up digital: How the net generation is changing your world. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Tapscott, D. (1998). Growing up digital: The rise of the net generation. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Tessier, J. (2013). Student impressions of academic cell phone use in the classroom. Journal of College Science Teaching, 43(1), 25–29.
Thompson, P. (2013). The digital natives as learners: Technology use patterns and approaches to learning. Computers & Education, 65, 12–33.
Tindell, D. R., & Bohlander, R. W. (2012). The use and abuse of cell phones and text messaging in the classroom: A survey of college students. College Teaching, 60(1), 1–9.
Vitak, J., Crouse, J., & LaRose, R. (2011). Personal Internet use at work: Understanding cyberslacking. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(5), 1751–1759.
Wei, F. Y., Wang, Y. K., & Klausner, M. (2012). Rethinking college students’ self-regulation and sustained attention: Does text messaging during class influence cognitive learning? Communication Education, 61(3), 185–204.
Wentworth, D. K., & Middleton, J. H. (2014). Technology use and academic performance. Computers & Education, 78, 306–311.
Wolters, C. A., & Hoops, L. D. (2015). Self-regulated learning interventions for motivationally disengaged college students. In T. Cleary (Ed.), Self-regulated learning interventions with at-risk youth: Enhancing adaptability, performance, and well-being (pp. 67–88). Washingon DC: American Psychological Association.
Xu, J. (2015). Investigating factors that influence conventional distraction and tech-related distraction in math homework. Computers & Education, 81, 304–314.
Zimmerman, B. J. (2000). Attaining self-regulation: A social cognitive perspective. In M. Boekaerts, P. R. Pintrich, & M. Zeidner (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation (pp. 13–39). San Diego: Academic Press.
About this article
Cite this article
Flanigan, A.E., Kiewra, K.A. What College Instructors Can Do About Student Cyber-slacking. Educ Psychol Rev 30, 585–597 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-017-9418-2
- College students