Texting rises to top in-class distraction

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. —When his professors drone, Dan Kautz whips out his phone.

Kautz, a senior at Wilkes University, might send a text message to someone across the room —"I can't wait to get out of here" — or make plans with his roommates. He's become so adept at texting during class that he can tap out a message without even looking at the screen, making it appear as if he's paying attention to the instructor when he's really chatting with his girlfriend.

"Every single person I know texts in class at least occasionally," said Kautz, a communications studies major from Pelham, N.Y.

It's no surprise that high school and college students are obsessive texters. What alarms Wilkes psychology professors Deborah Tindell and Robert Bohlander is how rampant the practice has become during class: Their recent study shows that texting at the school has surpassed doodling, daydreaming and note-passing to become the top classroom distraction.

The anonymous survey of 269 Wilkes students found that nine in 10 admit to sending text messages during class — and nearly half say it's easy to do so undetected. Even more troubling, 10 percent say that they have sent or received texts during exams, and that 3 percent admit to using their phones to cheat.

Tindell said most professors are likely as clueless as she used to be about the ubiquity of in-class cell phone use. Many of the surveyed students said their professors would be shocked if they knew about their texting habits.