Logged In and Zoned Out

Psychol Sci. 2017 Feb;28(2):171-180. doi: 10.1177/0956797616677314. Epub 2016 Dec 20.


Laptop computers are widely prevalent in university classrooms. Although laptops are a valuable tool, they offer access to a distracting temptation: the Internet. In the study reported here, we assessed the relationship between classroom performance and actual Internet usage for academic and nonacademic purposes. Students who were enrolled in an introductory psychology course logged into a proxy server that monitored their online activity during class. Past research relied on self-report, but the current methodology objectively measured time, frequency, and browsing history of participants' Internet usage. In addition, we assessed whether intelligence, motivation, and interest in course material could account for the relationship between Internet use and performance. Our results showed that nonacademic Internet use was common among students who brought laptops to class and was inversely related to class performance. This relationship was upheld after we accounted for motivation, interest, and intelligence. Class-related Internet use was not associated with a benefit to classroom performance.

Keywords: Internet; academic performance; laptop.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Microcomputers*
  • Students*
  • Universities
  • Young Adult