A person can be said to suffer from “internet addiction” when their excessive use of the internet for distracting purposes causes major disruption in their personal and/or professional lives. According to the latest data, such internet addiction affects 2% to 10% of the general population in industrialized countries. However, one would expect the prevalence to be even higher among new generations.
Is there an internet addiction epidemic among the young populations? Does it disrupt their school life and overall well-being?
To answer these questions, a team of researchers surveyed 285 Italian university students (23 years-old on average) and asked them a series of questions related to:
Results indicated that the mean score of the sample on the Internet Addiction Test was 37.2, very close to the “addiction” threshold. As a matter of fact, over 1/3 of the respondents scored over 40, thus qualifying has having a problematic internet use. Likewise, 3/4 of the respondents reported using the internet up to 3 hours daily, and 1/5 reported being online anywhere between 4 and 7 hours every day.
As expected, the researchers also found a negative effect of problematic internet use on students’ motivation, learning strategies and emotional health. Arguably, the causality could run in any direction, demotivation, poor study skills and/or emotional issues leading to more internet use. Yet the most likely explanation is that there is a vicious circle at work here, with all three factors reinforcing each other.
Still, this means that problematic internet use acts as a powerful catalyst with a potentially destructive impact on:
Based on these findings, schools should approach technology-integration more holistically and help students develop the skills they need to make reasonable, productive and healthy use of the digital tools available to them.
Reference: Truzoli, Vigano, Galmozzi and Reed, “Problematic internet use and study motivation in higher education”, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, December 2019.