And those with more media usage were more likely to report behaviors likely to hurt their academic performance. The exceptions: listening to music and reading newspapers were linked to higher grades.
Walsh said it's not possible to draw a direct cause-and-effect relationship between excessive technology use and poor academic performance. More research is needed to do that, she said.
One communications expert challenged the findings, calling them misleading.
"It is absolutely not the case that college women spend nearly half their day using media," said Jeffrey Hall, an associate professor in the department of communication studies at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence. Previous research has found that almost 30 percent of media time involves multi-tasking -- such as listening to music while texting, he said. If that figure were applied to this research, women would have spent closer to nine hours daily on media use. Hall called this "a more reasonable estimate."
Walsh said it's unknown whether the findings apply to male freshmen, given that this research focused solely on women.
"However, young women and men tend to spend approximately the same amount of time using media, and thus we might expect media to interfere with men's academic success in similar ways," she said.
Hall agreed. "There is no reason to believe that these results wouldn't apply to males, but there is also not research in this particular article to say that they would," he said. "We just don't know."
The research team's theories as to how cell phone use and social networking might be linked to worse academic performance do have merit, Hall added.
"Consider the fact that making priorities is very hard for students," he said. "And social networking is extremely compelling. Students feel that Facebook friends' comments on your status update can't wait, but class preparation can."
The other explanation, Hall said, "is
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