The use of online study methods by universities risks turning students into internet addicts who are less motivated to learn, psychologists have warned.
Swansea University researchers surveyed students at three UK higher education institutions and found that 30 per cent of respondents had a form of internet addiction that they labelled as mild or worse, indicating some disruption to their lives from online activity.
Of the 162 students who took part in the study, 45 per cent spent between four and seven hours a day on the internet, and 15 per cent spent more than seven hours a day online.
Internet addicts were less motivated to study, according to responses given in the survey.
Students with mild or worse internet addiction were judged to be 10 per cent less intrinsically motivated, on average, than those without such a problem. The effect was more marked on internet-addicted students’ self-efficacy, which was about 25 per cent lower.
Phil Reed, who led the study, said that the results “seem to show that prolonged problematic use of the internet seems to reduce people’s ability to make long-term plans and to resist immediate temptation”.
Professor Reed, whose research was co-authored with postgraduate student Emma Reay and was published in the January edition of the journal Higher Education, said that the correlation between high internet use and internet dependency had implications for universities.
“Higher education institutions and schools are increasingly using digital technology as an aid to study,” Professor Reed said. “But pushing students more on to the internet runs the risk of them developing psychological problems, and of being counterproductive in terms of their ability to study.”
The link between internet addiction and decreased study motivation was evident across gender and disciplines, and after other psychological factors such as social isolation and lack of sleep were considered.
The students surveyed were also asked what they used the internet for. Respondents said they spent 7 per cent of their online time looking at pornography, on average.
They also reported using it for social media (25 per cent), entertainment (23 per cent), education (17 per cent) and gaming (16 per cent).