Are Students Suffering from Internet Addiction?

Internet addiction, or tech addiction in general, has been discussed as far back as 1996, but is only just now a hot topic. It made me wonder, does relying heavily on tech in school make internet addiction worse? I looked at social media to find out. I watch social media closely and it's my job to share some of the hot topics on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other outlets that teachers, principals, students, and parents are contributing.

There's no denying edtech's usefulness in the classroom. Everything from self-grading quizzes to making virtual presentations without having to deal with all that glue has made the classroom a more efficient place for students, parents, and teachers. However, almost everything has drawbacks, including edtech. Are one of those drawbacks internet addiction?

Internet addiction is what happens when someone is so consumed by the internet that it interferes with their daily life. They're glued to their phone, desktop, iPad, android, or whatever device it is that gives them internet access. People still debate if internet addiction is real. Whether or not people think internet addiction is a real phenomenon or not, it's undeniable that there are some people who can't disconnect.

Is this problem being fostered in schools? I found an article from CMS Wire, posted by Shatha Al Maskiry on her Twitter account, that discusses internet addiction. The article, written by Kim Niemi, examines the problem from a business angle, but it's easily applied to the educational sphere too.

internet addiction

Niemi argues that one underlying cause of internet addiction lies in the workforce. Managers sending out messages during employee off hours have led to habits where people constantly check their device to see if they have a new message. The employee goes into “work mode” the moment they see a message, even if it's something simple and requires no further work from the employee.

It's easy to see how this applies to a school setting too. Instead of a manager sending messages to employees, it's teachers sending messages to students. If there's always a chance of getting a new message from a teacher, then students have to keep their phones nearby all of the time and never truly exit school mode for down-time or play mode. Encouraging students to constantly check their iPhones could lead to further internet addiction.

The solution? Use your technology wisely. Set expectations for students early on in the classroom. Respect students' off-school time. Don't do anything to them you wouldn't want your boss to do to you. No one likes having to check their phone over the weekends and on vacation because they're worried their boss contacted them. Your students don't like it either. And not only is that annoying and disruptive to their down and play time, but it could also encourage internet addiction.

Do you think internet addiction is real? What do you make of this theory? Do you support it, or does it sound like hogwash? What are other ways teachers use edtech irresponsibly?

Tori Pakizer is the Social Media Editor at SimpleK12.com. She writes regularly about the use of educational technology in K-12 classrooms, and specializes in how teachers use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media. You can follow Tori and SimpleK12 on Twitter @SimpleK12. If you have ideas for using social media in schools, please send your information or tip to editor@simplek12.com.