Student perceptions of digital distraction prevention and student–instructor rapport

Abraham E. Flanigan, Angela M. Hosek, Brandi Frisby, Wayne A. Babchuk, Emily Ray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The present study investigated how course policies and enforcement strategies designed to curb classroom digital distraction affect undergraduates' perceptions of student-instructor rapport. Data gathered from online surveys completed by undergraduates at four United States universities revealed that student perceptions of rapport can be influenced by digital distraction prevention. Participants endorsed course technology policies that are developed in collaboration between students and instructors and that are targeted at curbing the use of digital devices for social, rather than educational, purposes. Findings indicate that such policies can improve student buy-in and improve student perceptions of rapport. Although participants identified confrontational enforcement strategies (e.g., calling students out, grade reductions, phone confiscation) as most effective for reducing the amount of digital distraction during class when policies are violated, these strategies were also identified as being most harmful to their perceptions of rapport with instructors. Despite regularly using devices for off-task purposes during class, most participants are not worried about getting caught because they do not believe their instructors are particularly concerned about the amount of ongoing digital distraction in the classroom. Recommendations for addressing student digital distraction while protecting the quality of student-instructor rapport are provided through the lens of self-determination theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-236
Number of pages20
JournalCommunication Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 National Communication Association.


  • digital distraction
  • higher education
  • mobile technology
  • rapport
  • self-determination theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics


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