Internet ethics in university students
In this review I will discuss the paper “Exploring the relationship between Internet ethics in university students and the big five model of personality”. The authors of the paper,Nor Shahriza Abdul Karim, Nurul Hidayah Ahmad Zamzuri, Yakinah Muhamad Nor, have attempted to refine the reliability of scale of big five personality variables and unethical internet behaviors as framed through ITADS( Internet triggered academic dishonesty).
The Paper is an attempt to explore the relationship between Internet ethics in academic scenario and the big five personality model. The Paper is themed on a widely spreading issue Internet Ethics in the wake of widespread use of the Internet which provides easy accessibility to wide range of information which can be easily copy pasted by students in assignment work or by researchers in their research work. The authors state the popular means of unethical behavior triggered by internet as fraudulence, plagiarism, falsification, delinquency, unauthorized help, and facility misuse. The authors quote work of Ferrell & Gresham (1985), Hunt & Vitell (1992), Rallapalli (1994) while raising the point that there is a strong correlation between personality traits and ethical behaviors. A Literature survey clearly indicates that most of the previous studies were focused on ethical issues in businesses and consumerism and that there have been very few studies investigating relationship between personality traits and Internet ethics. Considering this lapse in research done in Internet ethics the authors make a bold case by investigating to find out the degree of unethical Internet use among university graduate students and explore the relationship between the five personality traits ( Goldberg's Big Five model (1990)) and unethical Internet use.
As the work revolves around big five personality model, there is a section explaining this model in the paper. Goldberg proposed this model in 1982 which states that individual characteristics, patterns of thinking, feeling, behaving and responding to environmental demands can be described in terms of their scores on five personality domains which are 1)extraversion, 2)emotional stability, 3)agreeableness,4)conscientiousness, and 5)intellectual (openness to experience). In addition to this the authors claim certain hypotheses with facts to backup them, as pointed below
Extraversion is negatively related with ITADS
An extravert person tends to socialize a lot taking pleasure in human interactions. He/She uses Internet as a medium for expanding social networks. An Introvert person likes to spend his/her time alone and avoids social gatherings. The authors claim Introverts are slower than extraverts as they are more reflective. Further they claim that introvert person spends a lot of time on Internet and has more tendency to engage in Unethical use of it. Based on these two claims the authors hypothesize that Extraversion is negatively related with ITADS. However, I feel that there seems to be certain lapses in this claim. For instance consider this, an Introvert person being reflective might spend more of his time working than like an extravert who spends more time socializing, which leads to a negation to the hypothesis stated.
Agreeableness is negatively correlated with ITADS
People who are agreeable are friendly, considerate and fear the law therefore bounding to the law. Citing this the authors hypothesize that Agreeableness is negatively correlated with ITADS. However this may not be true for every case thereby raising doubts on the authors generalized claim.
Conscientiousness is negatively correlated with ITADS
Conscientiousness indicates a person's level of organization, Hard work and zeal to achieve the goal. The Authors claim Conscientiousness is negatively correlated with ITADS.
Emotional stability is negatively correlated with ITADS
An emotionally Stable person upholds moral values, loyalty, sense of right and obedience to cultural norms. He/she will rarely abuse Internet usage. Citing this the authors claim Emotional stability is negatively correlated with ITADS.
Intellect or openness to experience is negatively correlated with ITADS
Persons high in intellect and openness to new experiences are intelligent, creative, insightful and have more perceptual ability. They tend to be sincere and have very low tendency to abuse Internet usage. Citing this the authors claim Intellect or openness to experience is negatively correlated with ITADS.
The main contribution of this paper is the way the authors chose to relate and quantify the scales for big five personality variables and unethical Internet Behaviors as conceptualized through Internet triggered academic dishonesty (ITADS). This is quite critical as the hypotheses made above were not backed up with proper facts. The methodology employed by the authors is a survey in four different academic faculties in a university in Malaysia. The questionnaire used was divided into three parts, part 1 catering to demographic information, part 2 catering to big five personality measurement items, and part 3 catering to measure Internet Triggered Academic Dishonesty (ITADS). For the analysis part to ensure the data collected from the survey is reliable, data reduction process using Factor analysis with principle component and varimax rotation followed by reliability tests with Cronbach Alpha for reliability score in the scale were employed. The authors make a strong case on their efforts to obtain fair and reliable data by first omitting items with correlation indices less than 0.40, then remaining items underwent reliability analysis and variables or factors with alpha value less than 0.70 were omitted from further analysis. The data was then analyzed for descriptive analyses, correlation analyses and ANOVA. These steps taken by the authors showed their contention to obtain reliable deductions.
The questionnaire for big five personality test had 10 items under each of the five points. After omitting the items for reliability reasons the results are Extraversion left with 8 items (alpha = 0.782), agreeableness with 9 items (alpha = 0.714), conscientiousness with 10 items (alpha = 0.758), emotional stability with 8 items (alpha = 0.829), and intellect or openness to experience with 10 items (alpha=0.773). Overall the students were below average in terms of emotional stability and above average in the remaining four personality traits. This indicates that level of big five personality traits are balanced and equally represented among the students. This adds an additional level of reliability to the results of the survey.
Part 3 comprised of 25 items measuring ITADS, 8 items measuring Internet facility misuse. The division under ITADS is fraudulence (11 items), plagiarism (five items), falsification (three items), delinquency four items) and unauthorized help( three items). Internet misuse implies the wrong usage of internet during inappropriate times like during lab classes or in inappropriate places like playing games in labs or for wrong purposes. Similar to the analysis of big five personality model two variables delinquency ( alpha=0.624) and unauthorized help (alpha=0.565) were removed from further analysis due to low values in reliability tests. The authors support this decision by arguing that the Malaysian students are still quite new in terms of exposure to the Internet world and these two factors require a level of sophisticated understanding of Internet. The average mean for fraudulence, plagiarism, falsification and Internet facility misuse indicated low engagement in such activities. However some activities within facility misuse are found to be quite frequent like using internet to surf community portals, reading emails during lectures. The low aggregate score for Plagiarism obtained in the survey is inconsistent with previous work (Selwyn,2008 and Szabo,2004) raising doubts on the honesty by which the answers were submitted by the students for the questionnaires. The authors failed to elaborate on this issue.
Does unethical Internet behavior vary among students from different academic faculties? To answer this question the authors employed Analysis of variance (ANOVA) on three different faculties - ICT, engineering and economics. There is not much difference between students of different faculties in terms of fraudulence, plagiarism, and falsification. However there is a significant difference in terms of misuse of Internet facilities in labs and lab-based classrooms. ICT and engineering faculties have higher mean values. These findings are backed by the fact that both these faculties are designed to be lab-based therefore the students spend a considerable amount of time in labs.
Further, the authors give the results of the relationship between the big five personality and unethical internet use using Pearson correlation analysis. The Pearson r values indicate the strength in relationship, each of the pair agreeableness and misuse, conscientiousness and misuse, conscientiousness and plagiarism, conscientiousness and fraudulence, and emotional stability and plagiarism have significant negative r values indicating negative direction of the relationship. Extraversion and intellectual or openness to experience are found to have no correlation with unethical Internet behavior. These findings support only 3 out of the 5 hypotheses related to big five personality model inferred by the authors.
Can personality traits predict unethical Internet behaviors? To answer this question the authors performed a stepwise multiple regression approach by considering the big five factors as the predictor variables and the ITADS variables as dependent variables. The results indicated that each of the big five factors had a negative significant relationship with ITADS variables. However the variance values found out for each of the five factors are low values hinting that prediction on behavior by personality trait factors may be small.
In this review I have discussed the paper “Exploring the relationship between Internet ethics in university students and the big five model of personality”. I have presented the authors impressive work in investigating the relationship between the big five personality traits model and unethical Internet behavior in academic environment. As this is the first time such work is done in the field of Internet ethics, the authors chose breathtaking means and were successful in their attempt. Initially most of the hypotheses claiming the negative relationships between big five traits and ITADS were not backed up by proper facts; finally they are supported through the analysis of the survey results in the later parts of the paper. The results, which were obtained through data filtered properly for reliability issues, backing this claims give proper proof to these hypotheses rather than just speculating them through certain fallacious facts. Having said this we should not forget that this study was focusing only on the big five personality traits effect on ITADS, whereas there are many more means which share an important role in Internet ethics. Future studies should be expanded to cover more such means. I conclude by pointing out that this work will be a significant contribution in research work which will be useful for different organizations to develop relevant policies to safeguard academic environment from abusing Internet ethics.
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