Cell phone use distracts young adults from academic work with limited benefit to self-regulatory behavior. Academic Article uri icon


  • We aim to uncover theoretical mechanisms associated with potential negative (i.e., multitasking) and positive (i.e., self-regulation) aspects of cell phone use (CPU) for academic performance in young adults. We hypothesized that, according to the Switch-Load Theory, repeated CPU during academic activities (CPU_Multitasking) would relate negatively, whereas, according to Zimmerman's Theory of Self-Regulated Learning, CPU for self-regulated learning behaviors (CPU_SRLBehavior) would relate positively to the academic performance of undergraduate students. 525 (75.4% female) undergraduate students from a large public university participated in this study during fall 2019 by completing validated quantitative surveys accessing their CPU and academic performance. Spearman's rho was used to compute the correlations and hierarchical regression was used to analyze the variance. Spearman rank-order coefficient showed that CPU_Multitasking relates negatively, but CPU_SRLBehavior is unrelated to the college GPA of undergraduate students. Hierarchical regression showed that CPU_Multitasking was not a significant predictor of academic performance. Young adults who switch to their cell phones during class or study-related activities are more likely to have lower performance in exams as CPU_Multitasking costs time and efficiency (Switch Load Theory). Young adults who use their cell phones for self-regulated learning behavior are less likely to have an impact on their academic performance as CPU_SRLBehavior helps regulate habits but not learning processes. With the known theoretical mechanisms for CPU multitasking and SRL Behavior, this study provides a guiding document for educational computing system practitioners to explore more theory-driven empirical approaches in the field of CPU and academic success.

published proceedings

  • Curr Psychol

altmetric score

  • 10.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Joshi, S. C., Woodward, J., & Woltering, S.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Joshi, Suresh C||Woodward, Jay||Woltering, Steven

publication date

  • January 2022