Right… of course they do. But you know me, I like to have data to back up assumptions so I’m sharing some results of a recent survey I conducted on student technology use. This chart is based on data from a sample of over 2,500 college students. What was most surprising to me was the amount of time that students reported texting– a full 3 hours per day on average. That just seems like a lot. Granted, some of the texting is being conducted while engaging in other activities. As part of this study, I collected data on multitasking which I haven’t yet analyzed, but will soon for an upcoming paper. I’m guessing that there may be a good amount of error variance introduced by the way the texting question was interpreted by students. I asked student to tell me “on average how many hours/minutes a day” they spent text messaging. So, does a text message conversation last an hour if I’ve sent and received a total of 4 messages in that hour? Or does it last the minute it took me to send two messages and read two responses? There’s really no way to tell until I do some follow-up research.
On the bright side, I do have additional data to clarify these results: I also asked students to tell me “on average” how many text messages they send/receive in a given day and I asked them to tell me how many text messages they sent/received “yesterday” to check for accuracy in reporting. Presumably, it’s much easier to remember how many messages you sent yesterday (and if all else fails, students can look at their text messaging log). Indeed, average number of text messages sent daily and number of text messages sent “yesterday” were significantly and highly correlated as were average number of text messages received daily and number of text messages received “yesterday.” On average, students reported sending 96 text messages a day (SD 50) and receiving 104 text messages a day (SD 50). Then one must ask – how long does it take a student to send a text message? Clearly, a question for further research. For now, let’s assume that it takes students an average of 30 seconds (w/a large standard deviation for variance in texting skill), that would mean that they spend almost 50 minutes on average sending and if we use the same guesstimate for reading text messages, 50 minutes on average reading text messages for a total of 100 minutes per day on average. Certainly a far cry from the 184 minutes reported in the sample.
There are a few other results shown in the chart worthy of mentioning. For instance, students reported spending a little over two hours a day using search engines. They also spent an hour and forty minutes per day on Facebook. Interestingly enough, they spent about as much time on email as they did talking on the cell– oh, those antiquated methods of communication are so quaint. Lastly, students reported spending less than twenty minutes a day chatting or IMing on any platform. The chatting numbers combined with some of the Facebook data I collected leads me to conclude that students don’t spend a lot of time using Facebook chat. Indeed, 52% of this sample reported that they “rarely” or “never” used Facebook chat.
Update 3/9/12: If you are looking for an academic reference for time spent on various online activities, please download this publication. The time estimates in the publication are slightly different from those in this post because they are based on a different sample and text messaging frequency was estimated by asking about number of texts sent (instead of time spent texting).