Excessive Computer Use

Computer use is expected and very common amongst university students. However, when does it become too excessive and problematic?

Warning Signs

  • Using the computer more often or for longer periods of time than originally intended.
  • There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down on computer use.
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities related to computer use (e.g., playing computer games, communicating with friends/family members on the internet several hours every night, buying items via computer, surfing the internet, trying out new internet browsers, etc.) to the point where in-person social, academic, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of computer use.
  • Computer use is continued despite physical, social, occupational, or psychological problem that may have been caused or exacerbated by computer use (e.g., lack of sleep, relationship difficulties, lateness for early morning appointments, neglect of school work).
  • Have to spend more and more time on the computer to feel satisfied.
  • Friends, bosses, students, or family members have started to comment on your increased computer use & you ignoring social, job, academic, or family duties.
  • You find yourself lying to friends and family members about the amount of time you spend on the computer.

Other causes of concern are seen in those who:

  • Engage in online cybersex for increasing amounts of time. This may or may not include chat and/or IM contact. Other forms of contact and intimacy with loved ones become less important.
  • Gamble using the Internet or spending money online in an out of control way.
  • Repeatedly contact someone online who does not wish you to do so; this is otherwise known as harassment. This may violate that person's right to privacy and can lead to serious legal consequences.

What You Can Do

  • Keep track of your usage. If you do want to change your computer usage behavior, start by writing down when and how much you are using your computer for a week, i.e., from what time to what time, which days of the week, what you were doing on the computer, with whom you were communicating with online. This will help you be more aware of your usage.
  • Consider your desire for change. Ask yourself if you think you have a problem. Is your computer usage causing social, physical, and/or academic difficulties? Is this something that you want to change?
  • Set a goal. After tracking your usage, set a specific realistic goal of how much you want to cut down. And, reward yourself when you do accomplish this goal.
  • Get out and meet other people. Ask yourself if you are using the computer to avoid in-person contacts. Are you concerned about interacting with others in person? If you have fears or experience extreme anxiety when interacting with others, it is recommended that you seek professional help to improve the quality of your life.
  • Get involved in some non-computer related fun; develop other interests/hobbies and place these as higher priority than your computer use.
  • Seek professional counseling at the campus Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). See box below.

Come to CAPS in the Student Wellness Center, Room 300B (third floor), for support and to learn more about the reasons behind your excessive computer usage. Also, learn behaviors to replace your current patterns. If your academics are negatively impacted, we also have educational counselors who may help with your educational performance, time management skills, etc. Our personal counselors are available for appointments and walk in crisis counseling.  Please call us at 408-924-5910 to schedule an appointment or for more information.