The internet plays a crucial role in

The internet is a worldwide network
which provides an assortment of data and communication, comprising of
interconnected systems. Around three billion people round the world use
internet. There are many advantages of internet such as: we can send and receive
information, virtual online activities, online purchases, social media
applications, apply jobs online, and listen to music or watch a video. However,
there are disadvantages of internet usage as well, such as: internet is not
free of cost, no physical touch during online social media interactions, poor
internet connection can lead to restlessness, or social networking, emailing,
chatting, online shopping can utilize majority of our time.

As humans, we have the intellect to make
smart choices in life. Yet, we allow internet to distract or disturb our minds.
Using internet on a regular basis has created a revolution over the globe in
the field of exchange of ideas and information. Daily use of internet can lead
to addiction which may affect the psychological well-being of a person. The
internet plays a crucial role in the lives of college students as it helps them
during assignments and study related work, however, working or utilizing the
internet for a significant number of hours can be harmful and stressful to
young minds.

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Problematic computer use is a growing social issue which is
being debated worldwide. Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) ruins lives by
causing neurological complications, psychological disturbances, and social
problems (Cash, Rae, Steel, & Winkler, 2012). Students who go through high internet use are
vulnerable to experience physiological symptoms as often especially in social
situations that require public speech, self introduction, meeting with
strangers, presentations and other activities.

Self-esteem is the confidence in one’s
own worth and abilities. It reflects a person’s overall subjective emotional
evaluation of their own worth, for example, “I am worthy” “I am
competent”. It can contribute greatly as a risk factor which is a social
psychological construct because it influences happiness, satisfaction in
relationships, criminal behavior or among peer groups. The relationship between
Internet addiction and self-esteem has been investigated in several studies.
The study titled “Internet Addiction among Adolescents: The Role of
Self-Esteem” explores the use of social networking sites and its
association with self-esteem of adolescents’. This study has shown that college
students with low self-esteem tend to spend more time on social networking
sites than those with higher self-esteem.

Loneliness is a feeling of sadness and
isolation from social surroundings. It includes anxious feelings or a lack of
communication with other individuals. It has often been described as
“social pain”. It can be a symptom of a social or psychological
issue, such as chronic depression. Loneliness is a characteristic of our time
and basically describes the situation in which one lives either alone, or without
communication with those around him (Karapetsas et al., 2015). Research has
shown that loneliness has been prevalent in the society including people in
relationships, families and even with successful careers. However, it is known
that loneliness has a direct impact on internet addiction.

 The study may help to draw insight on the
incidence or the prevalence of internet addiction among the students within the
sample population. Based on the literature review, it has been observed that
studies done in this particular area are found to be scarce in Indian context,
especially in South Indian context, however quite a huge number of studies have
been done in the Western context. Despite its wide prevalence and impairing
effects on students, internet addiction often goes unnoticed or uncared both
among individuals and colleges. The current study may help to bring about
awareness on this particular issue among people who work with students,
especially the teachers, educationalists, and psychiatric social workers and encourage
them to find appropriate ways to deal with the issue.

 

Materials and Methods

Sample,
Procedure and Participants

A sample
comprising of 10 students from post-graduate program was selected from 5
classes each with the help of random sampling from Deanery of Humanities and
Social Sciences, Christ University, Bengaluru. The sample comprised 25 male and
25 female college students. Ages varied from 20 years (minimum) to 24 (maximum)
years (Meanage =  22 years).

 Young’s Internet Addiction Test (IAT)

The IAT has 20
items which are associated with internet use used in most researches for
diagnosis of internet addiction. The test scores range from 0 to 100 and the
higher score indicates the greater Internet dependency and more severe problems
which have been made for individuals as it is used excessively.

 Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale

The Rosenberg’s
Self-Esteem scale has 10 items which measure the self-worth by measuring both
positive and negative feelings about the self. Self-esteem relates to sum scores
of all 10 items where 1 indicates no self-esteem and 5 indicate high
self-esteem. The lower the scores, the lower self-esteem a student has.

 UCLA Loneliness Scale

The 20 item
Loneliness Scale (University of California, Los Angeles) is a reliable and valid
tool for assessing emotional and social loneliness among college students. The
sum of scores indicate the level of loneliness where 0 means no loneliness and
4 means severe loneliness, however, items 1, 5, 6, 9, 10, 15, 16, 19, 20 are
reverse scored.

 Statistical Analysis

Statistical
analysis comprised (i) general descriptive analyses, (ii) independent sample
test for mean comparison, and (iii) Man WhitneyU test for mean comparison using
IBM SPSS Statistics Version 20. All statistical tests adopted a
significance level of .05.

 

Results

Descriptive
Statistics

Among the
college students, it was found that the mean age of students who started using
internet was 14 years. The mean years students have been using internet for was
8.18 years. On average, students use 48.88 hours per week, wherein, the mean
hours of academic activities was 18.12 hours and non-academic activities was
30.38 hours. The mean difference between internet use in non-academic
activities and academic activities was 12.26 hours. The table below represents
the nature and pattern of internet use.

Nature

Mean

SD

Started Using
Internet at the age of

14

2.20

Years of
Internet use

8.18

2.45

Average
Internet hours per week

48.88

34.47

Average Internet use for academic
activities

18.12

18.99

Average Internet use for non-academic
activities

30.38

21.23

Table
1 represents Nature and Pattern of Internet Use among College Students

 

Level of
Internet Addiction among College Students

The bar chart
below illustrates the prevalence of internet addiction among the college
students using IAT. The bar chart illustrates the prevalence
of internet addiction among the college students. Based on the scores of
internet addiction test, the students are found to be with either one of the
two categories Internet Abusers and Internet Non-Abusers. Students who have
scored < 49 are found to be non-addicted internet users, and those who have scored > 49 are found to be addicted internet users. Among the sample
population, male n = 25 and female n = 25, N=50. The results showed that among
the participants, students were found to be internet abusers 14% and
non-internet abusers 86%. From the results, it could be observed that majority
of the students within the sample population were found to be non-internet
abusers. Nevertheless, there were a significant percentage of students who come
under internet abusers.

Bar
Chart 1 illustrates Level of Internet Addiction among College Students

 

Relationship
between extent of Internet Addiction with Loneliness and Self-Esteem among
College Students

According to the
means comparison tests for Independent test and Man Whitney U test, it was
found that there was significant difference between loneliness and self-esteem with
the extent of Internet addiction. Loneliness showed to be high (r = 64.74) and
self-esteem relatively low (r = 15.65) among internet abusers.

 

Internet Non-Abusers

Internet Abusers

p-value

 

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

Loneliness

61.43

14.27

64.74

11.62

0.51

Self-Esteem

16.29

2.69

15.65

1.90

0.44

Table
2 represents relationship between internet addiction with loneliness and
self-esteem

 

Discussion

The study
observed the relationship between extent of internet
addiction with loneliness and self-esteem among the college students. Based on
the scores, internet addiction has been categorized into internet abusers and internet
non-abusers. The results reveal that 14% of the study population were internet
abusers and 86% were non-internet abusers. It could be inferred that there was
significant difference between loneliness and self-esteem with internet
addiction.

The study has been done against the
context that very little is known about the prevalence of internet addiction
among college students in Indian context, especially the southern part of
India, since there seems to be very less research literature existing on
internet addiction among college students in Indian context. However, the
earlier studies done by Chhabra & Anand, (2013), Goel, Subramanyam, &
Kamath, (2013), Sharma, Sahu, Kasar, & Sharma, (2014), Lakshmi & Pujam,
(2015), Krishnamurthy & Chetlapalli, (2015), and Jain, Sharma, Keerti, &
Sharma, (2016) on internet addiction among college students provide deep sights
on the same in Indian context. The current study shows the prevalence of
internet addiction is high 58% among the study population.

In the earlier
study, Sharma,
Sahu, Kasar, & Sharma, (2014), the level of internet addiction is normal
among the sample population as majority. In the study Goel, Subramanyam, & Kamath, (2013), there was no significant
relationship between self-esteem and internet addiction. Some of the findings
of the current study agree with the findings of earlier studies, however, there
seems to be significant variations too. The results of the study Lakshmi &
Pujam, (2015) show the prevalence of internet addiction and depression however,
it does not specify the causes that may affect the relationship.

The study makes recommendations taking
the college environment in Indian context into serious consideration. Most
often in colleges, especially in the Indian context, internet addiction goes
unnoticed. At times, students who are found to be extremely occupied with
internet habits replace academic stress. Internet is essential for students to
work on assignments and projects as part of their syllabus, however, the
current trend in rise of social media have influenced non-academic activities
to a great extent. For this, the college authorities need to have enough
knowledge about the common issue which students go through. Education for
students would certainly empower them to work more effectively that will create
awareness on the use of internet addiction. Teachers also can work in
collaboration with the college or impart knowledge on the same. Psychiatric
social workers can take appropriate measures to work with the risks associated
with internet addiction. Future studies can be conducted to test the
feasibility of psychosocial intervention that prevents vulnerability of
students with internet addiction. An
interventional study would provide deeper insights and highlight strategies for
well-being of college students with internet addiction.

The
field of social work has long been identified as a profession that emphasizes
personal, client-centered relationships, and social workers have been
relatively resistant to the advent of technology-based tools used for
therapeutic purposes (Parker-Oliver & Demiris, 2006; Parrott &
Madoc-Jones, 2008). There has been growing evidence that internet addiction
contributes greatly towards technological advancement. Social work is a
holistic profession that emphasizes the interconnectedness of various
dimensions around clients (Bunnell, 2001). Mental health social workers can
make efforts to work towards restoring the psychological well-being of
individuals and provide intervention strategies to cope with problematic
internet use.

The
current study has a very small sample population and limited to only one college
in South India as compared to other studies. Hence, the results of the study
cannot be generalised or extended to the whole population. The study had not
attempted to assess the relationship among peers that may influence the level
of problematic internet use. Also, the study does not provide any intervention
strategies in the college to assess the maximum level of internet use and
students to cope with the same. 

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