The Purpose of This Study

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THE INTERNET'S EFFECT ON TEENAGERS
Joshua Benjamin
Mr. Ferraro
Cooper City High School
Last Revised: January 31, 1999

INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this study is to determine the effect of internet usage on a user's life. Internet addiction is a serious complication effecting America's teenagers. An abundance of support, self-help, and anonymous therapy web sites are available to the public, but there has not been much distinguished attention given to the matter by media other than the Internet. A myriad of collegiate surveys (see references cited) exhibit static results of the Internet's effect based on the participant's age, gender, race, and lifestyle. Many people find the Internet to be the ideal place to socialize with others because of it's faceless medium and effortless ways to find others with similar interests; through the many ways of communication over the Internet, the common prejudices of life are not evident.

A significant issue, are the obscured inconveniences one may encounter during their day-to-day internet experiences. As companies 'snaz up' their websites more and more, the user is required to wait for more data to download. The common user does not care to wait for all the attractions and wishes to view what that they come looking for, information. Discomfort is endured as the user sits, and waits for minutes at a time as a status bar slowly progresses to the 100% complete mark. Over time, slightly disturbing events such as this build upon one another and it is hypothesized that it can impose on a user's psychological health over time. Some studies emphasize on internet usage in relation to social and civic interaction. Others highlight the similarities and differences between internet addiction and other addictions. Still others stress on what the user does online and how that affects him or her.

One college researcher's study focuses on Internet users' in relation to their various daily tasks. He states, "Buying products cheaper over the Internet is not a big concern of the questionnaire respondents. The Internet seems extremely attractive to the questionnaire participants. Only ten percent decreased their internet usage last year. More than fifty percent answered that Internet use from time to time, often or always replaces watching TV. 10% of the respondents considered themselves as addicted to or dependent on the Internet. The results show a significant difference in the answers from addicted versus non-addicted users. This leads to the conclusion that addictive behaviour can exist in Internet usage. On the other hand, the answers based on the common symptoms of addiction questions are not so strong in the addicted group that one can speak of an addiction, in which for example continued, persistent use of the Internet appears in spite of negative consequences." (Egger, 1996) Whether the Internet is increasing or decreasing social involvement could have enormous consequences for society and for people's personal well-being. In an influential article, Putnam documented a broad decline in civic engagement and social participation in the United States over the past 35 years. Citizens vote less, go to church less, discuss government with their neighbors less, are members of fewer voluntary organizations, have fewer dinner parties, and generally get together less for civic and social purposes. At the individual level, social disengagement is associated with poor quality of life and diminished physical and psychological health. When people have more social contact, they are happier and healthier, both physically and mentally. As one might suspect, these activities do not have the same appeal to teenagers and adults alike. The most prominent contrasts by age were not surprising. Teenagers were more likely to use the Internet for schoolwork and for getting educationally-oriented information. It is perhaps less obvious that adults rather than teenagers were more likely to use the Internet...
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