Internet Abuse in Universities Case Study

Pages: 5 (1663 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  Level: Doctoral  ·  Topic: Education - Computers

Internet Abuse in Universities

Why do you think universities may be reluctant to allow this type of research to be undertaken by students?

In the last decade or so, the Internet has had a tremendous impact on the arena of psychological research with lots of focus on interpersonal interactions and communication among other topics of focus (Niemz et al., 2005). There are a multitude of reasons as to why universities might not want this type of research to be undertaken by students. The first is perhaps the right to privacy. One could make a strong argument as to what students do in on the Internet in their own free time and in the privacy of their own homes is their own business. However, that argument simply doesn't hold water in today's modern world, particularly given the fact that this research would be conducted exclusively with universities that have a university network. Under the university network, students should be expected to maintain to a code of conduct and responsibility. At the same time, students have rights to privacy and one could still argue that those rights need to be respected.

Most colleges and universities tend to have a very one-sided perspective of their student's use of the Internet and its capabilities; they tend to view it exclusively as a resource. "Students understand that their school's administration and faculty want them to make full use of the Internet's vast resources. Abstaining from all Net use is seldom an option - in some large classes, professors place required course materials solely on the Net and engage in their only one on-one contact with students through e-mail! Administrators, of course, want to see their major investments in computers and Internet access justified" (Young). Given this statement, asking universities if they can conduct research into student internet abuse might seem to university leaders as though these entities are simply trying to look for problems. Since universities view the Internet as exclusively a tool and resources, it's unlikely that they ever see it as something that individuals can use to excess.

Furthermore, a university has a range of other demands, goals and stressors to consider at any point of the day such as donations, enrollment, courting the next big scholar and keeping the athletic department in the eyes of the nation. Asking a university if one can conduct research in the realm of Internet abuse might seem to them as though one is digging up problems or trying to exacerbate issues until they appear to be problems. More simply put, it might seem to a given university that they just have items on their agenda that are bigger priorities. Rather than ask if researchers can "look" for a problem, a university might prefer it if the problem actually first manifested itself and then they had to deal with it.

Moreover, if universities agree to have this sort of research conducted, the research findings can always be published, which could lead to embarrassment or bad publicity for the organization. For example, no university wants to be known as the place where lots of students use the university Internet system to watch porn. Such a finding, if published, could be damaging to a university's reputation.

2. What are the key ethical issues raised in this Case Study?

The key ethical issues that are raised in this case study are the ones which fall under the realm of Internet abuse. For instance, cyber-loafing is a form of Internet abuse and indeed an ethical issue. People using the university network aren't just students; they're also employees. These employees could be using up time where they're expected to be productive and complete work on time by loafing around the Internet. "While teams can be involved in social loafing online, many individuals are certainly involved in "cyberloafing" while ignoring their own responsibilities as determined by their employers" (Mujtaba). The Internet provides a vehicle for employees (and students) to neglect their responsibilities.

Another ethical issue that has clearly arisen from this case study that was noticed before is the right to privacy. Because many universities have their own network, universities feel completely justified in monitoring their students' usage of the internet, and taking disciplinary action if they feel any misuse or abuse has occurred. This is a sticky issue because the human right of privacy comes up. "Privacy can be defined as a fundamental (though not an absolute) human right. The modern privacy benchmark at an international level can be found in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights... 'No-one should be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks on his honour or reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interferences or attacks'" (gilc.org). It's definitely possible for college students to wage this type of argument against having their time on the Internet monitored by universities. It would be easy to argue on behalf of the importance and sanctity of the privacy of the student in order for their most beneficial development.

At the same time there is the ethical issue of beneficence and non-maleficence. On the most fundamental level, a university should be a place which promotes the good of students. It should be a place where students leave feeling and being better than they were. Recent research has demonstrated that with the Internet, there's a real danger for addiction and depression. "Many feel out of control and helpless and report serious impairments in their lives as a result of their Internet use. Impairments include work and school-related problems and dismissals, interpersonal problems, separations and divorces, and even impaired health (Orzack, 1999; Young, 1998). Research also has confirmed that for some Internet users their use of the Internet has characteristics akin to those found with substance abusers and gambling addicts" (Morahan-Markin, 2005). This research demonstrates that there are very real emotional and psychological ramifications for Internet abuse and those college students are very much at risk for many of them. Since there is this potential danger and such aggravated risk factors for students, one could argue that universities have the obligation to confront this ethical issue head on. This is particularly true, since they might have students who aren't excelling academically because they have a problem with Internet abuse.

Furthermore, universities already know that students have huge blocks of unstructured time where they have nothing to do, and this time is ripe for trouble if students aren't careful. "Most college students attend classes for twelve to sixteen hours per week. The rest of the time is their own to read, study, go to movies or parties, join clubs, or explore the new environment outside their campus walls. Many forget all those other activities and concentrate on one thing: the Internet" (Young). This is a pertinent ethical issue because it demonstrates an inherent vulnerability that these students have. Universities need to educate themselves about this vulnerability as well as educate their students. They need to actively warn students about the danger of indulging too much in the Internet the potential repercussions which can very possibly arise.

Aside from having all this unstructured free time, college students are also newly free from their parents' watchful eyes and control (Young). Before the Internet, there wasn't a way to express their newfound sense of freedom and autonomy with a computer or in a virtual community. "Today, they utilize that freedom by hanging out in the MUDs and chat rooms of cyberspace, and no parent can complain about online service fees or their refusal to eat dinner with the family or help out with chores" (Young). This is again another ethical issue for universities because it again demonstrates a vulnerability for where addictive behaviors can develop. Instead of ignoring these issues, universities really need… [END OF PREVIEW]

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