While recent studies have explored how too much time in front of screens can affect young people’s mental health, a new study conducted by researchers from Swansea University sought to discover how too much time online can affect college students’ studying habits.
They found that excess time on the internet can not only heighten anxiety for students, but it can also make them less likely to study for exams or make the effort to connect with the course material.
“These results suggest that students with high levels of internet addiction may be particularly at risk from lower motivations to study, and, hence, lower actual academic performance,” said researcher Phil Reed.
Monitoring internet use
The researchers recruited nearly 300 college students to participate in the study. They began by assessing how much time they were already spending on the internet and what their typical study schedule looked like.
Because mental health was such a large component of the study, the researchers also had the students report on their current anxiety levels.
The researchers learned that nearly one-quarter of the students involved in the study were spending more than four hours per day on the internet, with the majority of that time spent on social media. The remainder of the participants reported spending anywhere from one to three hours per day on social media.
According to the researchers, excess time online affected the students’ academic performance, as they were less likely to study and had difficulties with organization and productivity.
“Internet addiction has been shown to impair a range of abilities such as impulse control, planning, and sensitivity to rewards,” said researcher Roberto Truzoli. “A lack of ability in these areas could well make study harder.”
Effects on mental health
While too much internet time was found to affect the students’ academic performance, the researchers also found that it had an effect on their mental health.
The study revealed that being consumed by the internet increased feelings of loneliness among the students, and it also prompted greater anxiety prior to test days.
These findings have prompted the researchers to question the benefits associated with putting so much of required school assignments on the internet, as the outcome could actually be negatively affecting many students.
“Before we continue down a route of increasing digitisation of our academic environments, we have to pause to consider if this is actually going to bring about the results we want,” said Reed. “This strategy might offer some opportunities, but it also contains risks that have not yet been fully assessed.”