An Examination Of Internet Usage On Two College Campuses

Stephen Davis, F.

Some individuals use the Internet beyond reasonable expectations and suffer from Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), which produces significant, negative consequences in the daily lives of these individuals. This research sought to ascertain Internet availability and use by college students on two campuses: a small, private liberal arts university and a medium-size, public university. Although the majority (91%+) of the students sampled on both campuses have access to the Internet, extensive hours on-line ([is greater than] 25) were reported only by the students (especially men) at the public institution.

Technically, addictions are linked to the ingestion of chemicals, such as heroin, cocaine, nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, and so forth (Schelling, 1992). What about those other “addictions” we hear about so often (Blume, 1992): gambling, jogging, eating, and watching soap operas on television, for example? Certainly, they are not based on the ingestion of chemicals. Our definition of addiction has expanded to include almost any type of compulsive behavior (Foa & Kozak, 1995). Viewed in this context, it is not surprising to find there individuals who have become addicted to the Internet (i.e., Internet Addiction Disorder, IAD). IAD symptoms are similar to those experienced by individuals suffering from other types of addiction (Goldberg, 1997): development of tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, accessing the Internet for progressively longer periods of time, ineffective attempts to decrease Internet use, expenditure of considerable amounts of time on Internet-related activities, social and occupational responsibilities suffer, behavior persists even though the sufferer acknowledges its negative impact.

How prevalent and intrusive is IAD? Young (1996) studied 396 IAD sufferers (239 women, 157 men) and 100 non-IAD Internet users (54 women, 46 men). She found that middleaged women were more prone to IAD than other age and sex groups. Whereas non-IAD individuals may be on-line for 1 or 2 hr a day for pleasure (M = 4.90 hr/week), IAD sufferers reported being on-line up to 10 times that long (M = 38.50 hr/week). The non-business or pleasure use of the Internet differed between IAD sufferers and non-sufferers; non-IAD sufferers used the Internet to maintain already established relationships, whereas IAD sufferers were attracted to those aspects of the Internet (e.g., chat rooms) where they could meet and socialize with new individuals. The IAD sufferers also reported their excessive use of the Internet had moderately or severely impacted at least one major aspect of their lives. The most adversely affected aspects of their daily lives were academics, interpersonal relationships, finances, and occupational responsibilities; however, the IAD sufferers also reported they had no intention of curtailing their Internet use.

As Internet availability on college campuses becomes more prevalent, universities must become sensitized to the deleterious effects of excessive Internet use. The present study sought to ascertain the extent of Internet use on two college campuses: a small, private liberal arts university and a medium-size, state university. We also sought to identify differences in Internet use between men and women at the two institutions involved.



Medium-size state university. This group of participants consisted of 349 undergraduates (242 women, 107 men) enrolled at a medium-size, Midwestern university (enrollment = 5,500).

Small, private liberal arts university. This group of participants consisted on 184 undergraduates (101 women, 83 men) enrolled at a small, private, liberal arts university (enrollment = 900).


A sheet requesting demographics, information about Internet access, amount of time spent on-line weekly, and types of Internet applications visited was completed by each student. The students also were asked if time on-line interfered with work, school, or interpersonal relations, and to explain the nature of the interference, if applicable.


All testing took place during regular class sessions. Prior to distribution of the survey sheets, participants signed and returned informed consent documents. The entire experimental session took no longer than 15 min.


Medium Size State University

A high percentage (93%) of women and men reported having Internet access. Time spent on-line ranged from 0 to 55 hr/week (M = 4.66). A t test indicated that the men (M = 6.89 hr/week) spent significantly, t(347) = 4.32, p [is less than] .001, more time on-line than the women (M 3.93 hr/week).

Small Private Liberal Arts Institution

An equally high percentage (91%) of these students reported having Internet access. Of this number, 96 students were women (95%) and 72 students were men (87%); these students reported being online an average of 2.49 hr/week (SD = 3.25, range 0-20 hr/week). More specifically, the women were on-line an average of 2.19 hr/week (SD = 2.87, range = 0-15 hr/week) and the men were on-line an average of 2.90 hr/week (SD = 3.68, range = 0-20 hr/week). The men and women did not differ significantly, t(166) = 1.39, p 16, in terms of the amount of time they spent online.

Comparison of Internet Usage at the Two Institutions

A 2 x 2 factorial ANOVA incorporating Sex of Participant and Size of Institution as factors was performed on the hr on-line data. The results of this analysis yielded significance for the sex of participant, F(1, 517) = 7.56, p [is less than] .01, and size of institution, F(1, 517) = 4.06, P [is less than] .05, main effects, and the interaction of these two factors,. F(1, 517) = 5.08, p [is less than] .05. The Newman-Keuls procedure was used to probe the significant interaction and indicated that men at the public university spent significantly (p [is less than] .01) more time on-line than all other groups. In turn, the women at the public university spent significantly (p [is less than] .05) more time on-line than the men and women at the private institution. These latter two groups did not differ reliably.

Subjective Indicators of Internet Overuse

The students at the private institution and those students at the public university who spent 25 or fewer hr on-line uniformly did not indicate that Internet use interfered with work, school, or interpersonal relations. However, comments on the adverse effects from the students at the public university who spent more than 25 hr on-line are revealing. For example, these students indicated that:

“Occasionally, I would rather check the sports web pages that work on my

paper or get ready for class.”

`When I am tired of studying, I sometimes mail and chat to get away from


Sometimes anything is better than studying.”

“I compulsively check my e-mail at work.”

“People will only date me over the Internet.”

“I should be studying instead of in the chat room.”

“Time on-line interferes with interpersonal relationships. I work on the

net as opposed to spending time with her.”


Considering the present samples, the magnitude of time spent on the Internet does not appear to approximate the proportions described in previous research (e.g., Young, 1996). The findings that male and female students at the private university average less than 3 hr on-line weekly and that no participant at this institution reported being on-line more than 20 hr per week or having a negative life occurrence due to Internet use suggests that concern for IAD at institutions of this nature may presently be unwarranted. This is not to say that IAD is not present at all or that it will never be present.

On the other hand computer use at the larger, public university presents a different picture. Here students, especially men, spend significantly more time on the Internet. This use has negatively impacted the lives of some students. Clearly, both students and university officials at institutions of this type need to be sensitive to this behavior and take steps to assist those students who are victims of IAD or are at risk for this negative syndrome.

Why do these institutions differ with regard to Internet use? Several scenarios might be entertained. First, it is arguable that the two institutions attract different types of students (Davis, Grover, Becket, & McGregor, 1992). Traditionally, small, private, liberal-arts institutions stress learning and the educational experiences of the students, whereas larger public institutions are viewed by some in a less positive light. Hence, it is arguable that students at private schools may be less likely to sacrifice their education to non-related behaviors, such as Internet use. As appealing as it may be, there is no direct empirical support for this contention. However, the establishment of counseling for IAD students at several large, public universities provides indirect support. Second, it is possible that the greater anonymity experienced at the larger, public institution encouraged these students to answer the questionnaire more truthfully than the students at the smaller, private school. Although this view has some intrinsic appeal, it awaits supportive data.

Although Internet use on the two campuses sampled has not reached epidemic proportions, this situation bears continued attention. Recent technological advances suggest that our infatuation with the computer is likely to continue, if not escalate.


Blume, S. B. (1992). Compulsive gambling: Addiction without drugs. Harvard Mental Health Letter, 8(8). 4-5.

Davis, S. F., Grover, C. A., Becker, A. H., & McGregor, L. N. (1992). Academic dishonesty: Prevalence, determinants, techniques, and punishments. Teaching of Psychology, 19, 16-20.

Foa, E. B., & IAD, M. J. (1995). DSM-1 field trial: Obsessive-compulsive disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 152, 90-96.

Goldberg, 1. (1997). Are you suffering from Internet Addiction Disorder? On-line

Schelling, T. C. (1992). Addictive drugs: The cigarette experience. Science, 255, 430-433.

Young, K. S. (1996, August). Pathological Internet use: The emergence of a new clinical disorder. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, Canada.


COPYRIGHT 1999 Project Innovation (Alabama)

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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