Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


Date of this Version

Spring 4-15-2020


McCoy, B. (2020). Gen Z and Digital Distractions in the Classroom: Student Classroom Use of Digital Devices for Non-Class Related Purposes. Journal of Media Education, 11(2), 5-23. Retrieved from


This is the third national survey of digital distractions in American college classrooms. The latest one focuses almost solely on Generation Z and was published in the April 2020 Journal of Media Education.

The author would like to acknowledge the instructors across the United States and Alberta, Canada who encouraged their students to participate in this survey. Thanks to Dr. William E. Rogge, in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who helped with weighted analysis on select survey responses in this study.


A 2019 survey of college students examined classroom-learning distractions caused by their use of digital devices for non-class purposes. The purpose of the survey, part of an on-going study, was to learn more about students’ behaviors and perceptions regarding their classroom uses of digital devices for non-class purposes. The survey included 986 respondents in 37 U.S. states and 47 respondents in Alberta, Canada. A significant feature of the study was its measurement of frequency and duration of students’ classroom digital distractions as well as respondents’ motivations for engaging in the distracting behavior. Respondents averaged 19.4% of class time using a digital device for non-class purposes. The average respondent used a digital device 9.06 times during a typical school day in the 2019 survey for non-class purposes. On a weighted average, survey respondents indicated they would turn-off all non-class digital distractions if their instructor gave them 7.8% extra credit on their final class grade.