An Exploration of Middle and High School Students' Perceptions of Deviant Behavior When Using Computers and the Internet

Article excerpt


If the current trend continues, the use of computer technologies and the Internet will increase for teaching and education. It is urgent that researchers study computer and Internet deviance. The purpose of this study was to explore middle and high school students' perceptions of deviant behavior when using computers and the Internet.

The target population for this study was middle and high school students. The accessible population included all students who attended a middle or high school in the East Baton Rouge Parish School, which has computers that are capable of accessing the Internet ( 1,150 students - 575 middle school students and 575 high school students).

Professor San-Yi Li of Taiwan designed the instrument used in this study. This instrument contained 66 questions and a scantron was used to record participants' responses. From the instrument, variables were selected from five sections - 1 ) students demographic characteristics 2) computer-related activities 3) students perceptions of deviant behavior when using computers and the Internet 4) students perception of their peers deviant behavior when using computers and the Internet 5) students ability to use computers and the Internet.

Results showed that the majority of students indicated they perceive their behavior as being not deviant when using computers and the Internet. Contrarily, the students indicated they perceive the behavior of their peers to be more deviant when using computers and the Internet. When the means of the Students Behavior Score and the Peers Behavior Score were compared, there was a significant different between the two scores. The Peers Behavior Score for deviance was much higher than the Students Behavior Score.


"Any technology tends to create a new human environment."

-Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan declared this quote over forty years ago. Indeed, today's technology has created many new human environments and behaviors. Deviant behaviors on the computer and the Internet are rising as technology use increases (Hollinger, 1996b; Power, 2000; Vatis, 2000). This is evident in the enormous number of computer viruses that have been released recently causing businesses, educational institutions and personal computer users to become skeptical about performing familiar daily tasks (e.g., opening email messages).

For the purpose of this paper, deviant behavior for technology will include these activities: using computers and the Internet for illegal activities that violate local, state, and/or federal laws, inappropriate use; such as, a violation of the intended use of the Internet or computer, and/or its intended purpose and goal, obscene activities; defined as entering a pornography website or selling pornography goods on the Internet; using the Internet or computer to violate copyrights laws or other contracts such as institutional or third party copyright, license agreements and other contracts, intentionally disrupting the Internet traffic by spreading a computer virus, spreading rumors about another person on the Internet, intimidating and frightening another person on the Internet.

Deviant behaviors are a genuine concern since our society is rapidly moving from a typographic culture to a post-typographic culture (Provenzo, Brett & McCloskey, 1999). According to Provenzo, et al., "typographic culture is defined as a culture or society based around the technology of printing and post-typographic culture is defined as an electronic nontext-oriented culture." (p. i) With this movement, our culture and society is being transformed. People are communicating more by electronic mail and computers than by text or letter writing. Culturally, we are becoming more dependent on computers and computer-based technologies (Provenzo, et al.).

For example, students are no longer learning to type with typewriters, but with word processor software. …