digital technology
Besides promoting bad posture, heavy digital technology use is leading to poor study motivation in students. Source: Shutterstock

A new study by Swansea University and the University of Milan has revealed that excessive use of digital technology leads to poor study motivation and anxiety in students, as well as increased loneliness.

Surveying two hundred and eighty-five university students who were enrolled on a range of health-related degree courses, the researchers found a negative relationship between internet addiction and motivation to study.

Students who reported high levels of internet addiction and heavy digital technology use were found to have trouble organising their learning in a productive way, and reported feelings of anxiety about upcoming tests.

According to the study, “About 25 percent of the students reported that they spent over four hours a day online, with the rest indicating that they spent between one to three hours a day online.”

Most used the Internet fot social networking (40 per cent) and information seeking (30 per cent).

Professor Phil Reed of Swansea University said: “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.”

It might seem obvious that students who are glued to their smartphones or iPads all day long are being distracted from their studies, hence leading to a lack of motivation to study.

However, the study shows that there is a cognitive relationship at play and it’s not merely about getting students to switch off and focus on their books.

Today’s students are digital natives, born into an era of widespread digital technology use and having grown up using mobile phones, computers and tablets. With all the benefits that technology has made possible, it also has its implications.

Professor Truzoli of Milan University said: “Internet addiction has been shown to impair a range of abilities such as impulse control, planning and sensitivity to rewards. A lack of ability in these areas could well make study harder.”

The study also found that internet addiction is linked to loneliness, which also affects study motivation.  This brings up the issue of how feelings of loneliness play a significant role in how well a student does academically.

According to a study in Australia, international students are particularly prone to loneliness. This is due to acculturation and isolation stemming from the loss of contact with their families and their social networks back home.

Mental health is considered a “crisis” among university students today, and counselling centres on campus are finding it difficult to meet the increased demand of students looking for support.

The Conversation recently reported that student mental health distress is escalating to high levels in the US.

Data from the American College Health Association showed that over the past year, 87 percent of college students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do and 66 per cent felt overwhelming anxiety.

More than half (56 percent) felt things were hopeless.

Professor Reed said that universities must consider the impact of digital technology on students’ mental health and academic performance, as the world becomes increasingly digital.

  • “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. This strategy might offer some opportunities, but it also contains risks that have not yet been fully assessed.”

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