My Topics

14 September 2012

Students Overestimate Their Own Online Activities

Keywords: SMS, gaming, internet, marketing, parents, North America, computer, media, social media,

Students are avid internet users. However, the time they spend online and their internet activities are hard to measure. A Computers in Human Behavior study provides a solution. Researchers compared the results of a self-reported questionnaire about internet usage to real time data provided by SMS. They concluded that students overestimate their own online activities.

Take aways

  • Students think they’re spending more time on the internet than they actually are.
  • When using the internet, students are multitasking most of the time.
  • Most common online activities: visiting social network sites, doing homework, and browsing. 
  • When targeting an online campaign at young adolescences, make sure your campaign is feasible at different canals at the same time. 

Study information

  • The question?

    How are older adolescents using the internet at a daily basis, and is there a difference between the time they think they’re online, and the time they are actually spending on the internet?

  • Who?

    189 students (mean age: 18,9 years). Most participants were female (58,8%). The majority of participants were white (90,5%)

  • Where?

    United States

  • How?

    The research consisted of two parts. In the first part, participants were asked to fill in an online questionnaire, to find out how much time they think they are spending on the internet on a daily basis. In the second part of the study, researchers used a ‘real time questioning technique’ by making use of SMS messages. During a one week period, participants received a total of 43 text messages. Each SMS contained the exact same questions measuring the time participants were actually spending online. Questions asked in the text message were: Are you currently online? If so, how many minutes have you been online? What are you doing online? Participants were asked to send their answers back as soon as possible, to get the researchers real time data. After data collection, researchers compared the so called ‘self-reported daily internet time’ from the first part of the study, with the actual measured online activities of the participants obtained by the second part of the research.

Facts and findings

  • Differences were found between the time the students thought they spent on the internet daily (approximately 3,5 h) and the time they actually were online (approximately 1 h).
  • Two possible explanations for this finding:
    • Students’ multitasking behavior increased their perceptions of the time spent online.
    • Being online is socially very important for students and therefore they may overestimate their time spent online. 
  • Students spent most of their time online visiting social network sites (52,9%), doing their homework (40,6%) and browsing the internet (40.6%).
  • Students frequently engage in multitasking: 56,6% of the total time spent online they were doing more than one thing at the same time. 
  • There were two groups of activities that were often engaged in simultaneously by students:
    • Streaming, chatting, downloading, and gaming.
    • Visiting social network sites, browsing, doing homework and e-mailing.
  • Each participant received a total of 43 text messages. At 28,1% of all measured time points, participants were online when receiving the SMS.