A recent study looked at the effects of problematic internet use on motivation for studying, anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
Since the increase in the prevalence of laptops, smartphones, and other technological devices within classrooms, researchers have devised numerous studies investigating how technology and the internet affect study habits.
Confusion and uncertainty have sparked a debate within the psychological community, which, as is often the case, attempts to catch up to the more quickly-evolving technological innovations.
Especially concerning to psychologists is when academic performance suffers as users develop behavioral problems related to technology. For instance, problematic internet use can result in significant disturbances to a person’s work and relationships and even produce negative effects when prevented from using the internet.
Investigating the effects of internet use on learning motivation
Many previous studies looking at how the internet affects study habits have produced mixed results. According to a recent article published in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, the use of GPA scores to determine academic performance may not capture the entire story. The team of researchers from Italy suggest that motivation for learning may be more directly affected by problematic internet use, and thus creates potential detrimental effects in all learning situations, whether or not GPA scores are involved.
As such, the researchers designed a study to investigate whether a relationship exists between problematic internet use and motivation to learn. They further investigated whether this relationship might be mediated by loneliness, anxiety, or depression. To do this, the researchers recruited 285 university students, asking them to answer questionnaires measuring their internet use, motivation for learning, and depression, anxiety or loneliness.
Would test anxiety and loneliness link internet addiction to learning motivation?
The researchers found that a relationship existed between internet addiction and loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, internet addiction was linked with worsened learning strategies (i.e. organizing learning productively), and stronger test anxiety. When looking at potential mediators, the researchers determined that loneliness at least partially explained the relationship between internet addiction and learning strategies. However, test anxiety and internet addiction were directly related.
Thus, problematic internet use may affect studying skills across a range of settings, as opposed to performance in one particular area. The researchers suggest that the negative effect on motivation to learn may be explained by the reduced ability to plan and to experience reinforcement upon task completion, as well as by increased rates of anxiety and depression.
The researchers note that loneliness is related to depression and anxiety, as well as playing a significant role in how positively a person feels about their academic life in higher education. The researchers propose that the increase in loneliness suggests poorer social interactions, making the student less motivated to engage in the academic environment within the university.
Importantly, the authors remind that these results have been collected at one point in time. Therefore, it is not possible to see the development of the variables over time. Moreover, the results are correlational, and it is not possible to conclude any causal relationships from this study.
Nevertheless, the researchers suggest that, given their findings, academic institutions may decide to promote certain strategies to reduce the excessive use of the internet. It may also be beneficial, the authors continue, to consider whether the increased use of technology as a communication aid between students, may instead impact academic performance negatively.
Written by Maor Bernshtein
Reference: Truzoli, R., Viganò, C., Galmozzi, P. G., & Reed, P. (2019). Problematic internet use and study motivation in higher education. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. doi: 10.1111/jcal.12414
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay