Student Internet Abuse

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The Internet is an essential tool providing a wealth of information and enabling lectures to be viewed online to view at our leisure. It enables research to be carried out on many different devices by students and teaching staff alike and has been advertised as an important educational tool which has led to the integration by many schools of Internet services within the classroom environment.

Even though the Internet is an ideal tool for carrying out research both psychologists and educators alike have been aware of the negative impacts which accompany this tool, especially the over use or misuse of the Internet (Murali & George, 2007; Young, 1996).

One survey carried out revealed that a total of 86% of teachers, librarians and computer coordinators that responded believed that the usage of the Internet by children does not improve the child’s performance arguing that information on the Internet is too disorganized and it is unrelated to the school curriculum to assist students and the Internet can serve as a distraction (Barber, 1997).

In a study by Young (1998), 58% of students suffered from a result of poor study habits and poor grades or even failed school because of excessive Internet use. Many students are unable to control their Internet usage and as a result there has been a reported decline in their study habits due to extreme Internet use resulting in a substantial decline in student grades, class attendance and in severe cases students being placed on probation due to their excessive Internet use (Young, 1996a).

Colleges are now beginning to recognize the possible influence of Internet use as counselors at the University of Texas-Austin began to realize that the leading issue for many students was their inability to regulate their Internet use, a view that was confirmed when a study of student Internet abuse at the campus revealed that 14% displayed the conditions of Internet addiction (Young, 2004).

Despite the merits of the Internet which is an ideal research tool for students if used correctly many students experienced significant academic problems as they found themselves surfing inappropariate web sites, taking part in chat room gossip, communicating with pen-pals and playing interactive games online all of which affected the result of their own studies.

Due to these activities, many students encountered difficulty completing homework assignments, studying for upcoming exams, getting sufficient sleep to be alert for the next day’s classes and those not able to control their Internet use found themselves achieving poor grades, receiving academic expulsion and sometimes resulting in expulsion for university entirely (Young, 1996; Young, 2007).

The high dependence of the younger generation on the Internet for learning, leisure and social activities is recognized as a social problem and this generation are also more vulnerable to the influences of the media (Fu et al. 2010).

When compared to other sections of society college students are regarded as being more susceptible to Internet addiction due to psychological and developmental characteristics of adolescence and early adulthood and easy access to and expected use of the Internet. Stress, family support or the lack of it and the harmful use of alcohol among college students are all factors in the development of Internet addiction (IA) (Yan et al. 2014; Weinstein et al. 2014).

Internet addiction (IA) is both a newly evolving social and mental health issue among youths today attracting much attention worldwide, particularly in certain Asian countries such as South Korea and China have already recognized Internet addiction as a public health problem with reports that China which is ranked as the largest Internet broadband market worldwide claiming that one in every six Chinese Internet users may have already developed some degree of Internet addiction (Fu et al. 2010; Yan et al. 2014; Block, 2008).

The average South Korean high school student spends about 23 hours every week online gaming, a further 1.2 million are believed to be at risk of addiction and require basic counseling (Block, 2008).

A 2009 National report on Internet Addiction of the Chinese youth community carried out by the China Youth Association for Network Development revealed that 14.1% of young people in China aged 13-29 years old (i.e. at least 24 million youths) were possibly addicted to the Internet with more than half of these college or high school students (Yan et al. 2014).

Factors Contributing to Student Internet Abuse

With such a widespread existence of Internet abuse the question which needs answering is what are the factors contributing to student Internet abuse. Young (2004) attributes the following factors for abuse of the Internet by students.

  1.   Unlimited Internet Access

When students enroll in universities today they receive their student ID card. However, despite receiving their ID card they more importantly receive a free personal e-mail account with no online service fees to pay, no limits as to the amount of time they can remain logged on and the luxury of computer labs which are available for 24 hours a day which equates to any Internet user’s dream scenario.

  1.   Large Volume of Unstructured Time

With the large amount of unstructured time students have time to explore the campus and activities at the campus they are attending but many choose to forget this and concentrate on one activity: The Internet.

  1.   Lack of Monitoring and Censorship of Online Activities

While in college or university the monitors of the computer labs are usually senior volunteer students whose responsibility is to help students, who require assistance using the Internet and not telling students what they cannot do while on the Internet.

  1.   Encouragement From Faculty and Administrators

Students are under the presumption that the faculty wants them to make full use of the resources supplied. There is usually no option when it comes to not using online facilities as with large classes most course material such as lectures is placed online, many assignments are submitted via e-mail and if a student required to contact a lecturer out of class time to ask a question this is also carried out online. Administrators must be seen to justify the financial outlay they invest in computers and Internet access on campus.

  1.   Social Intimidation and Alienation

Many campuses can have up to 30,000 students on campus and it is very easy for some students to feel lost in the crowd. When these students reach out they invariably run into tighter clicks than those they experienced in high school.

To hide from the difficult feelings of anxiety, depression, pressure of making top grades, fulfilling parental expectations, graduation and the competition of finding a good job they join the faceless community of the Internet which allows them to find friends worldwide.

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