Friday, September 29, 2006

College students doing too much Internet?

Initially, when I saw this article on college students and Internet addiction, I gave it no further thought. That was until a student came to see me for some research assistance a few days ago. As we were talking about her research needs, we also had a casual conversation. She made the offhand remark that she felt that maybe she should shut down her MySpace because it was taking so much of her spare time. At that moment, the lightbulb went off for me, and I remembered this article.

Glancing from the Information Desk at any given time, you can see at least 8 to 10 terminals on MySpace or other social site, plus a couple more on games. Those are the ones I can see without standing up in a lab of 70 terminals. Problem or not, the fact that these students spend large amounts of time on the Internet for purposes other than academic, as reported additionally by colleagues who have made similar observations, is a given. Personally, I am pretty mellow about the whole thing. It's their tuition, so as long as they are not doing anything illegal, I don't really care what they do on the computers. And yet, I think of that one student now. At least, she has some awareness. Many students simply lack that awareness. "Increasing numbers of students are reporting their extracurricular online activities are taking a toll on their academics," according to the article.

The article mentions a survey conducted at Michigan State University. One of the survey's findings is that "18.5 percent of Michigan State University students reported that spending time using the Internet and playing computer games caused them to get low grades or drop a class altogether." For campus administrators, this is a sensitive issue. On the one hand, findings like these are a cause for concern and the impulse may be to want to do something, like start considering some kind of limits on online activity. On the other hand, administrators, and we can include some librarians in this blend, don't want to appear as an antiquated scold. I am definitely not one to advocate any kind of limits or monitoring of student online activity. I think it may well be part of learning life management skills. Maybe for some of those students, realizing that grades will suffer or having to drop a class is the lesson they need in order to learn about balance and moderation. At the end, that is the bottom line: balance and moderation. So, if students were to ask for my advice, I would say this: keep in touch with your friends, play a little game here and there, but please get your school work done. It's all part of getting an education.

A hat tip to the Kept-Up Librarian.

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