This week, Shelia Cotten and I will present a paper on multitasking at the Oxford Internet Institute’s A Decade in Internet Time Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society.
We have posted the draft of the paper here. Please note that the paper is in draft form and it has yet to be peer reviewed. Therefore, we’d love it if those of you reading this would act as peer reviewers and provide us feedback about the paper. We’ll incorporate any feedback before we submit the paper for publication in an academic journal. We are particular interested in your thoughts about our interpretation of the results. Please feel free to share your feedback in the comments below or to email me directly at rey (period) junco at gmail. We’ll acknowledge any feedback we use in the paper.
Using hierarchical linear regression (N = 1,839) with gender, ethnicity, parental education level, high school GPA, and Internet skills as control variables, we found that frequency of sending text messages and using Facebook while doing schoolwork were negatively related to overall GPA. However, frequency of using email while doing schoolwork was positively related to GPA.
The finding that using Facebook and texting while doing schoolwork was negatively related to GPA was congruent with previous research on multitasking however, the finding that using email while doing schoolwork wasn’t. We theorize that the reason for this discrepancy is because of how the technologies are used– students use Facebook and texting socially with their peers while they use email to communicate with faculty and university staff. Therefore, we propose that social activities will lead to more negative outcomes while academic activities will lead to more positive ones.
As with my recent study of Facebook use and engagement, these data are cross sectional and correlational and while it’s intriguing to think that multitasking causes students to have lower grades, it is equally likely that students who have lower GPAs happen to spend more time multitasking. There is more than likely an extraneous causal variable related to both multitasking and student academic achievement that we have yet to measure. We’ll examine this more in future research.