More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
The Internet: Worse for Students than Alcohol?
Tuesday, September 19, 2006

So clearly we're being facetious with that headline, but data cited in a recent AP article from the Detroit Free Press should give pause to many college students, parents and administrators around the country. According to researchers at Michigan State University, the Internet has caused more scholastic problems than other, more well known problems.

In a health survey conducted this year, 18.5 percent of Michigan State University students reported that spending time using the Internet and playing computer games had caused them to get a low grades or to drop a class altogether. In comparison, 8.5 percent of students said drinking had hurt their academics; while 17 percent said it was depression.

What's more, the study showed men seem to be drawn more to the Internet. Only 13 percent of women reported harmful effects on their schoolwork; for men, it was 25.2 percent.

There are a number of possible explanations that could explain these results, but the bottomline is that Internet addiction should be taken more seriously at the university level. It is there that many people have their first taste of life without a parent's watchful eye keeping track of them. It is also at college that many students get their first taste of the unfettered freedoms of the Internet. These two circumstances can combine to create a situation wherein students may develop unhealthy or unproductive habits.

One counselor quoted in the story calls Internet addiction a "socially approved problem." Since it very rarely affects anyone else's life, a person's Internet addiction can go unnoticed and unchecked. This "socially approved" status might also account for a large part of the discrepancy in self-reporting, i.e. students are very willing to say they did poorly because they were surfing the Internet, an activity not nearly as socially stigmatized as waking up with a hangover on a Wednesday.

If social approval is the problem, and only further research will determine if that is the case, then an equal focus must be placed on shaping students' perceptions of the Internet as a useful and fun tool, but also something that can be overused. Just as public perception has been changed to make excessive TV viewing socially unacceptable, so too can we make excessive Internet usage less socially acceptable.

Obviously, this will not prevent or ease the most severe cases. Students who play World of Warcraft to the exclusion of everything else will require therapy and treatments. But we should be able to cut down on more of the casual but harmful use. Instant messenger is convenient, but unnecessary if you're talking to your neighbor. Facebook stalking is fun, but why not actually speak to your friend. Snood or Bejeweled are great diversions (and can certainly be addictive), use them as a reward for a task completed or a good grade on a test.

Danny Boy

Teenagers and the internet, teenagers and drugs, teenagers and video games, teenagers and sex.

Teenagers and ______ (fill in the blank).

I was a teen not long ago in hindsight any little thing that could distract me from school/homework did. I just wasn't interested. I believe with children and teens it all comes down to parents teaching personal responsibility.

Before the internet; television was the babysitter for single mothers (I'm in no way bashing single mothers), nowadays many homes have personal computers, often with high speed connections. Many parents have no clue how to operate them and even if they do their skill level is way behind their kids.

The generation cap comes into play here, my generation is the first to have the internet widely available while our parents didn't. Sure our parents may use computers at work to make spreadsheets. :eek: Heck, they probably even use email but they're in no way computer savvy. Websites like MySpace probably do nothing but confuse them. When I asked my mother to read my blog; She asked "What's a blog?". I chucked a bit because old media (TV, Newspaper, & radio) constantly uses the word blog major news programs here in states have their own blogs.

In short if parents would take a little time to learn how use the computer, monitor web surfing, install blocking software and possibly use a time limiter things wouldn't be as bad.

If parents stopped trying to be their childs' friend, played an authoritative role and said these are the rules, follow them or be punished. There would be no need for any of that software. :)
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David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
I don't disagree, Danny. I see both sides of this in my work: On the one hand, parents worrying excessively about their teens playing online games or have instant messenging while doing homework (in my experience, often a good thing because they can collaborate or ask questions of classmates about assignments and projects as they do them); on the other hand, true cases of internet "addictions", which are increasingly problematic.

To me, the "differential diagnosis" is this: Is time spent on the computer excessive by objective standards (e.g., I have had clients who spend up to 8 hours or more at a stretch in an online game)? Is computer time interfering with "real world" activities the individual used to enjoy? Does the individual have difficulty being away from the computer even for activities that are of interest to him/her? Does the individual have difficulty limiting time on the computer?

As with most things, it's basically a question of whether or not and the extent to which internet activities interfere with other aspects of the individual's day to day life.


aahh Danny boy.. sure i think you are still a teenager.. lol

you said above that as a teen you would do anything as long as it distracted you from your homework\school...
when\if you become a parent i hope that your teens will listen as you the try and teach personal responsibility. With most teens this only works if it's to the teens benefit, and it's more or less same with rules, i'm afraid. :)

I do agree with you on the generation gap thing.. I have it here at home.. tis terrible to think i used to teach computer courses.. now i can honestly say that yes most teens know more than i do.
I would still view blocking software a must these days. for obvious reasons.


If I hadn't have discovered blogging in December of 2002, I'd have never learned half of what I now know about the Internet, including how to get things to show up (or not show up) in search engine results, all kinds of stuff having to do with instant messaging, sending and receiving audio files over messengers, etc. etc. -- all this is stuff that teen-agers seem to know automatically. But with me, it was only because my blogging opened up a door into that realm. There's such a gap in today's world between those who use the Internet a lot, and those who don't. Where I live, it's still about 50/50. Most people don't have PayPal accounts, not among people I know. Many people will never under any circumstances make an online purchase by credit card. Some people are downright scared of the Internet.

On the other side are people who abuse the Internet--trolls and hackers and phishers and spammers. I wonder if a lot of trolls are just people with really serious Internet addictions, and that any one of us might become a troll if we spent too much time on the Internet.

Danny Boy

On the other side are people who abuse the Internet--trolls and hackers and phishers and spammers. I wonder if a lot of trolls are just people with really serious Internet addictions, and that any one of us might become a troll if we spent too much time on the Internet.

I wanted to touch on this part a bit; I spend a lot of time on the Internet probably 10-12 hours a day. A majority of that time is spent trying to build my own websites and communities or learning programming techniques and languages.

Spending a lot of time online, I've come to realize that trolls are probably much the same way in real life always starting trouble thus they don't have many friends. They turn to online "trolling" to annoy and aggravate people in mass numbers because people in real life no longer give them the opportunity to do so.

Most hackers actually do good unfortunately the word hacker has become synonymous with bad stuff thanks to the media.

Spammers are nothing different than the guy on the corner selling fake Rolex's they just found a way to "run game" on more people at the same time.

Phishers are nothing more then the devious bus boy at your favorite restaurant copying down credit card information.

All in all there is bad people in real life. Yet probably more on the Internet because of the anonymity aspect of things.

(I realized I've gone way off topic..don't be to hard on me mods. :) )
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