THE INTERNET'S EFFECT ON TEENAGERS Joshua Benjamin Mr. Ferraro Cooper City High School Last Revised: January 31, 1999 INTRODUCTION The purpose of this study is to determine the effect of internet usage on a user's life. Internet addiction is a serious complication effecting America's teenagers. An abundance of support, self-help, and anonymous therapy web sites are available to the public, but there has not been much distinguished attention given to the matter by media other than the Internet.
A myriad of collegiate surveys (see references cited) exhibit static results of the Internet's effect based on the participant's age, gender, race, and lifestyle. Many people find the Internet to be the ideal place to socialize with others because of it's faceless medium and effortless ways to find others with similar interests; through the many ways of communication over the Internet, the common prejudices of life are not evident. A significant issue, are the obscured inconveniences one may encounter during their day-to-day internet experiences.
As companies 'snaz up' their websites more and more, the user is required to wait for more data to download. The common user does not care to wait for all the attractions and wishes to view what that they come looking for, information. Discomfort is endured as the user sits, and waits for minutes at a time as a status bar slowly progresses to the 100% complete mark. Over time, slightly disturbing events such as this build upon one another and it is hypothesized that it can impose on a user's psychological health over time. Some studies emphasize on internet usage in relation to social and civic interaction.
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Others highlight the similarities and differences between internet addiction and other addictions. Still others stress on what the user does online and how that affects him or her. One college researcher's study focuses on Internet users' in relation to their various daily tasks. He states, "Buying products cheaper over the Internet is not a big concern of the questionnaire respondents. The Internet seems extremely attractive to the questionnaire participants. Only ten percent decreased their internet usage last year. More than fifty percent answered that Internet use from time to time, often or always replaces watching TV. 0% of the respondents considered themselves as addicted to or dependent on the Internet. The results show a significant difference in the answers from addicted versus non-addicted users. This leads to the conclusion that addictive behaviour can exist in Internet usage. On the other hand, the answers based on the common symptoms of addiction questions are not so strong in the addicted group that one can speak of an addiction, in which for example continued, persistent use of the Internet appears in spite of negative consequences. (Egger, 1996) Whether the Internet is increasing or decreasing social involvement could have enormous consequences for society and for people's personal well-being. In an influential article, Putnam documented a broad decline in civic engagement and social participation in the United States over the past 35 years. Citizens vote less, go to church less, discuss government with their neighbors less, are members of fewer voluntary organizations, have fewer dinner parties, and generally get together less for civic and social purposes.
At the individual level, social disengagement is associated with poor quality of life and diminished physical and psychological health. When people have more social contact, they are happier and healthier, both physically and mentally. As one might suspect, these activities do not have the same appeal to teenagers and adults alike. The most prominent contrasts by age were not surprising. Teenagers were more likely to use the Internet for schoolwork and for getting educationally-oriented information.
It is perhaps less obvious that adults rather than teenagers were more likely to use the Internet to get product information, to purchase items, to read the news, and to view sexually-oriented materials. Teenagers were more likely to use the Internet to play games, to listen to music, and to meet new people. Compared to other groups, both adult women and teenage boys were especially likely to report using the Internet for advertising, for selling, and for making money. " (Kraut, Lundmark, Patterson, Kiesler, Mukopadhyay, Scherlis, Zdaniuk, Thielke, Patterson, 1998. )
Some may view addiction as when a task becomes a necessary part of a user's life. "While the online experience can enrich and expand people's lives, it can also seduce the vulnerable into ignoring the real world. It demonstrates how a bright young man who is doing well in school and who has real-life friends can easily go through a period when things are more interesting on the Net than off. This is what leads him to see his online experiences as a "genuine" part of his life. He still had a life offline, but at the time of our conversation, events there were not going so well.
From this perspective, the comment about real life not being his best window seems a bit less sinister. " (Turkle, 1996) "Frustration with the sluggish speed of a browser is about the most serious psychological pitfall that most of us face when surfing the World Wide Web. But for as many as five million Americans, experts say, the Internet has become a destructive force, its remarkable benefits overshadowed by its potential to disrupt the lives of those who can't resist the lure of round-the-clock social opportunities, entertainment, and information.
For such people, work, friends, family, and sleep are replaced by a virtual world of chat rooms and games. Only recently, however, have psychologists begun devising strategies to wean on-line addicts from their endless browsing and chatting. " (Potera, 1998) "While drug and internet addiction have a lot in common, there are, of course, significant differences. Drug addiction is a physical dependence whereas the Internet is not. The Internet has been called a behavioral addiction. A behavioral addiction is one in which an individual is addicted to an action and not necessarily a substance.
People can become addicted to activities even when there is no true physiological dependence or physiological addiction. This basically means that behavioral addicts do not have any kind of physical dependence to the Internet. Any activity can be addicting if done to extreme. For example, some of the normal everyday activities that can be addicting are jogging, eating, sexual activity, work, etc. Everyone has heard of the workaholic, well that is a behavioral addiction just like the Internet.
If it "changes your emotional state in some way" then it can be classified as a behavioral addiction. This type of addiction is actually very common. Someone with the ability to recognize what type of addiction they have is helpful, but what about those people who don't even know they're addicted? Internet addiction, like any other addiction, has signs and symptoms. One sure sign that person is addicted is if they deprive themselves of sleep in order to spend more time on-line. Usually an addict will average less than five hours of sleep.
Another sign that someone might be addicted is if they neglect other important activities such as work, family and friends, or socializing in general to surf the Internet. Other symptoms include: losing track of time while on-line, or people close to you complain about the amount of time spent on-line, logging on while already busy with something else (work, family time, etc. ). These are just some of the many signs that point to addiction to the Internet. Once it is determined by the symptoms that a person is addicted, look for side effects of the addiction. " (Cochran, 1996)
One individual has evaluated, to quite an extent, the effects of Internet use on a population as well as internet addiction. She has published her conclusive results on the Internet. An excerpt from one of her reports states, "Especially vulnerable, Young [Dr. Kimberly S. Young, assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh at Bradford] believes, are those who are lonely, bored, depressed, introverted, lack self esteem, or have a history of addictions. Research among sociologists, psychologists, or psychiatrists has not formally identified addictive use of the Internet as a problematic behavior.
This study investigated the existence of internet addiction and the extent of caused by such potential misuse. On the basis of this criteria, case studies of 396 dependent Internet users (Dependents) and a control group of 100 nondependent Internet users (Non-Dependents) were classified. The length of time using the Internet differed substantially between Dependents and Non-Dependents. Among Dependents, 17% had been online for more than one year, 58% had only been on-line between six months to one year, 17% said between three to six months, and 8% said less than three months.
A total of 83% of Dependents had been online for less than one full year which might suggest that addiction to the Internet happens rather quickly from one's first introduction to the service. In many cases, Dependents had been computer illiterate and described how initially they felt intimidated by using such information technology. However, they felt a sense of competency and exhilaration as their technical mastery and navigational ability improved rapidly.
It is important to note that estimates were based upon the number of hours spent "surfing the Internet" for pleasure or personal interest (e. g. , personal e-mail, scanning news groups, playing interactive games) rather than academic or employment related purposes. Dependents gradually developed a daily internet habit of up to ten times their initial use as their familiarity with the Internet increased. In contrast, Non-Dependents reported that they spent a small percentage of their time on-line with no progressive increase in use.
This suggests that excessive use may be a distinguishable characteristic of those who develop a dependence to on-line usage. (Young, 1996) Astoundingly, internet subscribers and websites continue to proliferate exponentially, as the following excerpt describes, "The Web currently has about 16,000,000 users a year, with a growth rate predicted as doubling annually. Lycos estimates some 80,000,000 Web pages currently and expects to see the billionth Web page in 1997. Advertisers seem to make money on the Web - at least those selling Web advertising.
Jupiter Communications issued a study indicating that Web based advertising revenue reached $312,000,000 in 1996 and predicted $51,000,000,000 by the year 2000. (Searcher, 1997) The Internet's effect on human culture is much like other forms of technology have exhibited in the past, as one researcher justifies. "Psychologists are not even sure yet what to call this phenomenon. Some label it an "Internet Addiction Disorder. " Let's not forget the very powerful, but now seemingly mundane and almost accepted addiction that some people develop to video games.
Video games are computers too... very single-minded computers, but computers nevertheless. Or how about telephones? People get addicted to those too, and not just the sex lines. Like computers, telephones are a technologically enhanced form of communication and may fall into the category of "computer mediated communication" - as the researchers are dubbing internet activities. In the not too distant future, computer, telephone, and video technology may very well merge into one, perhaps highly addictive, beast.
A teenager who plays hooky from school in order to master the next level of Donkey Kong may be a very different person than the middle aged housewife who spends $500 a month in America Online chat rooms - who in turn may be very different from the businessman who can't tear himself away from his finance programs and continuous Internet access to stock quotes. Some cyberspace addictions are game and competition oriented, some fulfill more social needs, some simply may be an extension of workaholism. " (Suler, 1996 Rev. 1998) One researcher believes the Internet is and continues to become more of a crucially integral part of our lives. There are obvious parallels today. Predictions abound about how the Internet will, or won't change the way we shop, vote, bank and think. Like the telegraph, its true effects are likely to be subtle, long-term, and no less dramatic in the context of history. The Internet may well take the telegraph one step further, connecting the global community and defining an international ethos. Yet for now, as starry-eyed internet advocates promise spectacular and immediate social change and the occasional skeptic pooh-poohs its impact, the Net's ability to generate hyperbole and ho-hum reactions seems to be mimicking its revolutionary ancestor.
The historical similarities are instructive. " (Harris Adler, 1995) Based on the above literature, the researcher hypothesizes that interactive chat with people, probably would provoke most teenagers' extreme use of the Internet. Unrestrained use of the Internet should produce a negative effect on those that use it excessively. METHODS There were 125 participating responses which consisted of worldwide Internet users between the ages of 12 and 20 years old. The study was conducted via a survey that was available on the Internet's World Wide Web, at the address . A link to the survey was placed on a frequently visited website.
Approximately 149 responses were received throughout the collection period, 24 of the 149 received were discarded due to incomplete information resulting in the 125 complete surveys used for evaluation. The survey asked questions regarding the subjects' Internet use and how it affects his or her personal life. Since the survey was conducted online, all entries were by Internet users only. Procedure: • 1. Compose survey in a HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) creator. The answers should be in the outline of form functions (pop-up menu, radio buttons, selection list). Name the file "survey. shtml". • 2.
Create a warning webpage perchance the viewer is sensitive to material contained in the survey, create a link to the survey (survey. shtml), so the viewer can follow it to the survey. You may want the link to explain that you are not liable if the material harms them. Name the warning page, "index. html" (the file named "index. html" is the webpage that is automatically loaded as the default page when someone visits a website). • 3. Find a UNIX-based server for serving the survey webpage. • 4. Upload the warning and survey webpages onto the UNIX server in your website folder using a FTP (file transfer protocol) client. 5. Download the "TECform" CGI script, available at , then upload it to your UNIX server. The program allows results to be E-mailed to you. • 6. Make a request to the administrator of your UNIX server to setup the TECform CGI script for you. If this cannot be done, follow the instructions that come with the script and configure it on your own. • 7. Configure the questionnaire webpage using the instructions that came with the TECform script so webpage and the program may interact so the results can be E-mailed to you. • 8.
Inform classmates that use the Internet, and Internet users worldwide (via internet chat, newsgroups, and any other form of advertising) of the location of the online survey and request that they complete and submit it. RESULTS The ages of the subjects that participated in the study were in their mid-teens. 98. 5% of the respondents were male and 1. 5% were female. Most of the subjects were age 16 (20%), only 1. 6% of the respondents were age 12. 89. 6% of the subjects currently reside in the United States of America (including it's external regions), there was also a scant amount of Canadian subjects (7. 0%) and an irrelevant one subject each from the following countries: Japan, Finland, Sweden, and Brazil. The subjects' unweighted GPAs (Table 1. 2) demonstrated consistency with national statistics; the mean of the subjects' GPAs were A's, B's and C's, most had a B average. Of the 125 responses, 0% of the respondents had a failing GPA (one that rounded to O in the nearest tenth). The amount of respondents with A+ and D grades were about the same; 5. 5% of the respondents had an A+ average; 4. 8% of the respondents had a D average.
The study reveals that as connection speed increased (waiting time for a website decreased), the actual time spent online per day increased (Table 2. 1). An average of 5. 33 hours was spent online daily by the respondents (Table 2. 1). Time spent online ranged from a low of 4 hours to a high of 6. 55 hours per day. Intriguingly, the poles of the subjects' GPAs exhibited quite excessive amounts of time on the Internet, about 7. 7 hours per day (Table 2. 2). Those with A+ grades spent approximately 6. 72 hours online per each day. Those with a GPA score of C spent about 6. 31 hours online per day. Subjects with D grades spent around 8. 7 hours online per day; together the C and D grades' hours averaged to about 7. 5 hours per day. Again, there were no responses with a failing GPA. As Table 2. 3 explains, about 38% of the subjects replied that they were negatively effected by their Internet use, 62% answered that they were not effected negatively. Notwithstanding, whether they said they were effected negatively or not, the subjects' context of use is very similar. The two areas of use that differed the most were chat and web surfing. 36% of those that responded "yes" and 29% of those that responded "no" said they spent most of their online time in chat. 8% of those that responded "yes" and 33% of those that responded "no" said they spent most of their online time surfing websites. The respondents that thought they were effected negatively were the ones that chatted 6% more often and surfed the web 7% less. CONCLUSION The higher speed connection one has to the Internet, the more they can do at a time. One of the fastest connections, 10 Megabyte per second (shared T3) connections are extremely costly (about $25,000 / month) and most plausibly, a subject with access to a T3 would be a part of an educational institute in which the school would pay for Internet access.
Figure 1. 1 illustrates that those with higher speed connections use the Internet for longer periods of time. It is a possibility that those who get a 'rush' by using the Internet may be prepared to invest in higher speed connections. Figure 1. 2 illustrates that those who create Internet media spend the most time online per day and those who read newsgroups spend the least amount of time online per day. Internet users that create internet media most likely spend their full time online doing so, as opposed to others who use multiple areas of the Internet in their sessions.
Subjects that mainly chat online also spend a great deal of time online (5. 5 hours/day). This backs up the hypothesis which puts forth that internet chat instigates a habit. As Figure 1. 3 conveys, most of those who create internet media (such as websites and advertisements) do not think that their Internet use affects their health negatively, it is sound to gather that they do not believe it affects them negatively because they may consider their use as part of their job. Figure 1. 3 also indicates that those who think they are effected egatively by the Internet generally chat more often than those that browse the World Wide Web. It can be assumed that those who chat excessively believe that their Internet use affects their life in a negative way. Thus, the researcher's hypothesis is correct. This is striking, the Internet's exponential growth first began with the popularity of America Online and it's chat rooms. The Internet was not perceived to be used socially for chat as much as it is today. The majority of subjects do not think their Internet use has a negative effect on their social habits or emotional well-being (Figure 1. ). This is typical, heeding that any type of addiction is seen as an abnormality among a civilization. However, there was a definite group that believe it does effect them negatively. If these teenagers proceed with their net habits and current circumstance, a major disorder may develop over ensuing years. The study provides an awareness to the community regarding overuse of the Internet among the emerging society of adults. It points out the different components of the Internet that the majority of teenage addicts are liable to obsess on.
Overuse of the Internet can genuinely restrain teenagers' experiences in life, their performance academically, overall happiness, and physiological well-being. The term 'addiction' is used loosely in this study; withstanding, society's perception to this growing problem can be flexible depending on how varieties of people view the definition of addiction. The WordNet dictionary defines addiction as, "being abnormally dependent on something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming. " One researcher has termed the study of internet addiction as "Psycho technology. The Internet most certainly can be psychologically habit-forming, becoming a part of one's daily practices. To improve this study, the researcher would have restricted the ages of the subjects even slimmer, perhaps to ages 16-18. Also, the researcher would have redefined certain questions on the survey for worthier comprehension among the subjects, in particular the final one which stated, "Does your internet usage affect your social or mental health in a negative way? " A more appropriate question could have been, "Do you believe your internet usage may obstruct the achievement of your personal goals? Then a separate follow up, "If so, do you think using the Internet is worth more than achieving your goals? " The researcher suspects the results regarding daily use may have been biased because the link to the survey was placed on a website that could be categorized as directed to more advanced users than basic or intermediate. This, however, cannot be confirmed, the results stand rational. Lastly, the researcher suggests including a personal comment field in the survey, quotes of intensely effected users would be a good addition to the study.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Notably, I thank the respondents of the survey for taking the time out of their active day to fill it out completely and in their best efforts, without you, this study would be completely inaccurate and not worthwhile. Second, I thank my parents for fully supporting my interests and pursuits. I also thank Dr. Young and Carnegie Mellon University for publishing their research, studies, and links to other articles on the Internet. Thanks to Rob J. Meijer for programming the comprehensive script used to process the survey results.
Acknowledgements to Apple Computer, Inc. for developing a stable system and word processor to work in without fear of losing my manuscript (though I still save the document every 20 seconds). Finally, Mr. D. Ferraro for providing an abundance of answers to my countless questions and hours of helpful input. I hope each and every Internet user finds my study helpful to their enrichment and studies. REFERENCES CITED Internet Behaviour Questionnaire and Addiction Egger, 1996 HomeNet Project
Study by: Kraut, Lundmark, Patterson, Kiesler, Mukopadhyay, Scherlis, Zdaniuk, Thielke, Patterson, Carnegie Mellon University, 1998. The Psychology of Cyberspace Turkle, 1996 Trapped in the Web Psychology Today; Potera, 1998 Research Over Internet Addiction Cochran, 1996 Internet Addiction: The Emergency of a New Disorder Dr. Young, 1996 Internet/Web Growth Exponential as Usual Searcher, 1997 Psychology of Cyberspace - Computer and Cyberspace Addiction Suler, 1996 revised 1998 Creation of a E-nation Canadian Geographic; Harris-Adler, 1995 WordNet Dictionary - Version 1. 6
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