The sample of Dependents included 157 males and 239 females. Mean ages were 29 for males, and 43 for females. Mean educational background was 15.5 years. Vocational background was classified as 42% none (i.e., homemaker, disabled, retired, students), 11% blue-collar employment, 39% non-tech white collar employment, and 8% high-tech white collar employment. The sample of Non-Dependents included 64 males and 36 females. Mean ages were 25 for males, and 28 for females. Mean educational background was 14 years.
The following will outline the differences between the two groups, with an emphasis on the Dependents to observe attitudes, behaviors, and characteristics unique to this population of users.
Length of Time using Internet
The length of time using the Internet differed substantially between Dependents and Non-Dependent. Among Dependents, 17% had been online for more than one year, 58% had only been on-line between six months to one year, 17% said between three to six months, and 8% said less than three months. Among Non-Dependents, 71% had been online for more than one year, 5% had been online between six months to one year, 12% between three to six months, and 12% for less than three months. A total of 83% of Dependents had been online for less than one full year which might suggest that addiction to the Internet happens rather quickly from one's first introduction to the service and products available online. In many cases, Dependents had been computer illiterate and described how initially they felt intimidated by using such information technology. However, they felt a sense of competency and exhilaration as their technical mastery and navigational ability improved rapidly.
Hours Per Week
In order to ascertain how much time respondents spent on-line, they were asked to provide a best estimate of the number of hours per week they currently used the Internet. It is important to note that estimates were based upon the number of hours spent "surfing the Internet" for pleasure or personal interest (e.g., personal e-mail, scanning news groups, playing interactive games) rather than academic or employment related purposes. Dependents spent a M = 38.5, SD = 8.04 hours per week compared to Non-Dependents who spent M= 4.9, SD = 4.70 hours per week. These estimates show that Dependents spent nearly eight times the number of hours per week as that of Non-Dependents in using the Internet. Dependents gradually developed a daily Internet habit of up to ten times their initial use as their familiarity with the Internet increased. This may be likened tolerance levels which develop among alcoholics who gradually increase their consumption of alcohol in order to achieve the desired effect. In contrast, Non-Dependents reported that they spent a small percentage of their time on-line with no progressive increase in use. This suggests that excessive use may be a distinguishable characteristic of those who develop a dependence to on-line usage.
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The Internet itself is a term which represents different types of functions that are accessible on-line. Table 1 displays the applications rated as "most utilized" by Dependents and Non-Dependents. Results suggested that differences existed among the specific Internet applications utilized between the two groups as Non-Dependents predominantly used those aspects of the Internet which allowed them to gather information (i.e., Information Protocols and the World Wide Web) and e-mail. Comparatively, Dependents predominantly used the two-way communication functions available on the Internet (i.e., chat rooms, MUDs, news groups, or e-mail).
Table 1: Internet Applications Most Utilized by Dependents and Non-Dependents
|Type of Computer User|