Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Article Note: On College students and internet abuse

Citation for the article:

Kubey, R.W., "Internet Use and Collegiate Academic Performance Decrements: Early Findings." The Journal of Communication (June 2001): 366-382.

Read via Emerald.

I heard of this article from this other article, and I was curious enough to take a look. The Kubey article is again quite a bit considering it is looking at technologies online prior to things like Facebook, which have amplified the ability of many college students to procrastinate and spend way more time online than they probably should. Having said that, let's look at some highlights.

  • "However, although use of the Internet by students is on the rise, so are concerns that for some students, heavier use of the Internet might interfere with academic achievement, conventional social interaction, and exposure to desirable cultural activities" (366). Some might consider this to be a little on the alarmist side, but like everything done in excess, if you overdo your Internet use as a college student, you can run the risk of failing your courses. I don't think this is being alarmist, but it is pointing out something fairly obvious.
  • As in the later article that cites Kubey (see my link above), there are problems with defining terms. Also, the fact that the survey being studied is self-selecting in terms of the sample can be problematic and raise more questions.
  • Much of the evidence in studies is anecdotal. For example, "at Alfred University, 50% of students interviewed after dismissla for academic failure listed excessive Internet usage as a reason for their problems" (369).
  • Much of the research is relying on the DSM criteria for dependency. "Few, if any of these studies offer alternative theoretical explanations as to why the Internet might have such a considerable hold on some individuals. . .(369).
  • The survey sample in this article's report is of 576 Rutgers University students taking a 43 item survey. Two surveys were excluded, leading to a sample of 574.
  • From the discussion: "The new nature of collegiate life for some young persons could result in developmental retreat, as the Internet does offer a ready and convenient haven that then young college student, often living away from home for the first time and perhaps unable to control little elsewhere, can control when at the keyboard" (379).
  • From the conclusion, which finds consistency with some prior studies, but there are still caveats: "There is strong evidence that students' excessive Internet use is sometimes associated with academic problems, but it is not entirely clear whether these students might have experienced similare or related problems without the Internet if the problems result--as the data suggest-- from the attempt to control loneliness rather than from properties of the Internet itself. The Internet does enable opportunities for social contact that did not exist before its invention and wide use, and thus we are inclined to conclude that the Internet does play a role in some students' academic difficulties" (380; added emphasis).

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