Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Are you texting while reading this?

Juan Villa / The Collegian

Students and their technology are a common sight on campus.

Text messaging as fast as their thumbs can fly on the way to class. Checking MySpace, reading the latest celebrity gossip or playing a computer game on their laptops during a lecture. Even using their cell phones while skateboarding. The students of today seemingly can’t live without their electronic gadgets.

Tamyra Pierce, Ph.D., an associate professor in Fresno State̢۪s mass communication and journalism department who researches media effects on young people, noticed these trends. Pierce decided to conduct a research study on technology addiction in high school and college, specifically focusing on use of text messaging and social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook.

The results – perhaps not entirely surprising – indicated that students are clearly prone to becoming technology junkies.

Half of the 250 randomly selected college students surveyed said they spent one to four hours a day text messaging and talking on their cell phones. Pierce said she heard the story of one student who sent up to 700 text messages per week. Additionally, 39 percent of the students said they also spent that much time on social networking sites.

However, these statistics are not the only indicators for technology addiction.

“When I look at addiction, there’s other criteria that I have to look at as well as just amount of time that they spend,â€Â Pierce said.

The criteria for addiction included increased amount of time spent using the technology, preoccupation of thoughts with using the technology, withdrawal-type behaviors when the technology is unavailable and a euphoria feeling after use, and the main criteria — conflict that occurs as a result of use.

The study found that 50 percent of students had spent increased time with the technology since they first got it, 52 percent were preoccupied with the next time they could text message, 48 percent experienced euphoria after extended technology use and 46 percent reported irritability when unable to use their cell phones.

But Pierce said that more important was if conflict occurred as a result of technology use. That conflict could include problems with grades, family, paying attention in class and excessive phone bills. The study found that 23 percent of the college students surveyed reported conflict as a result of technology use.

“You need to be aware of the amount of time and what is going on with your use of technology,â€Â Pierce said.

Pierce thinks students should also be aware of the technology habits of those around them.

“If it seems like a friend of yours is using this technology way too much and avoiding or letting other responsibilities slip as a result of their use, it’s just like any other addiction,â€Â Pierce said “You want to be there and intervene. First is admitting that you have a problem.â€Â

Pierce sees the problem of cell phone use in her classroom every day. She has the additional complication of teaching in a computer lab with Internet access.

“All the time I have to tell [students] to get off their MySpace and then to put away their phones because they’re texting,â€Â Pierce said. “I know that they’re not paying attention … If they’re not paying attention they can’t do well.â€Â

Michael Becker, Ph.D., a political science professor on campus, said that he notices students using their cell phones all the time outside of class, but doesn̢۪t pay attention to cell phone use while he̢۪s lecturing. He also freely allows laptop use in his classroom.

“If they’re here to play computer games and talk to their friends, that’s their problem,â€Â Becker said.

For his part, Becker does not even carry a cell phone, calling them a burden and a distraction.

Pierce said she stays away from text messaging.

“I don’t use text message at all. I hate it,â€Â she said. “I’d rather just talk to someone.â€Â

Junior social work major Miriam Ceballos sees the advantages of being able to text message in class. She thinks it can be useful to assist friends when she can̢۪t answer her phone.

“It’s like another alternative to calling,â€Â Ceballos, 20, said. “I wouldn’t be able to get out of class.â€Â

Ceballos, who said she sends text messages up to 20 times per day, said text messaging can also keep her awake during lectures. She admitted, however, that it can become a distraction.

“I’m concentrating on them texting me and texting back, and not really concentrating on the lecture,â€Â she said.

Pierce will continue to study different aspects of student technology use in the future. In the meantime, students should be mindful of their habits, before they get out of hand, like in other countries.

“In Korea they’re having a big problem with Internet addiction,â€Â Pierce said “So much so that they’ve developed a boot camp of sorts for young people to go to, to get away from the technology.â€Â

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    Janelle FieldsOct 3, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    My 16 year old daughter texts over 200 times/day. She says her friends are all doing the same thing. It’s a problem we are aware of and trying to help her manage. Her grades haven’t suffered….yet. Our position is that she has to be distracted by all that texting, in a way that isn’t helpful to her overall development and learning how to interact with the world at large. Since the phone companies now only offer texting or no texting, we plan to charge her when she goes over a certain amount of texts/month.