Chronic browsing saps South African students’ study time

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At two universities in South Africa, students are losing sleep and studying less and the culprit is not hard partying – it’s internet addiction and it has researchers worried, writes Shaun Smillie for the Saturday Star.

A survey of 390 undergraduate students from the University of Fort Hare and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University revealed the impact the internet has on studying, said the report published on 5 March 2019.

The results appeared in a 2018 paper titled “Digital Media Usage and Prevalence of Internet Addiction among Undergraduate Students in South Africa”. It was published in the International Journal of Web Applications.

“These findings clearly suggest that the uncontrolled use of new media is a hazard and a potential danger to academic productivity,” wrote the authors.

Researchers drafted questions that asked how much and how often students used the internet. What they found was that a third of the respondents used the internet for non-academic purposes for 10 hours or more a day.

“Just think of how much you spend on your phone, you just keep going and going, six hours minimum,” is how one student described his online activity.

The researchers also asked what the students spent time on the internet for. The respondents said that they spent about 40% of their time daily for study purposes, while about 26% of them said they used the internet daily for academic research purposes. Meanwhile, students used instant messaging just over 88% of the time.

“It is what we do with technology that judges us,” said lead author on the paper Dr Oghenere Salubi of the University of the Western Cape.

When the researchers asked if the respondents slept less because of internet use, nearly half said they often did.

“Most of those late night logins and the negative effects come from social media use,” explained Salubi.

Overall, a third said they spent less time studying due to the internet.

“It is impossible to ask them to stop using the internet. These are digital natives, they were born into these technologies.

“What could happen is that they could get properly re-orientated on the use of these technologies for productive purposes,” said Salubi.

South African students are not alone. Internet addiction has become a worldwide phenomenon.

“You need to bear in mind that binge-watching TV is also screen time, and society is becoming more screen-addicted,” said information specialist Arthur Goldstuck.

Chronic browsing saps study time for students Digital Media Usage and Prevalence of Internet Addiction among Undergraduate Students in South Africa


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