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Investigating predictors of online vigilance among university students

Daniel B. Le Roux (Information Science, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa)
Douglas A. Parry (Information Science, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 8 December 2020

Issue publication date: 17 January 2022




Online vigilance is a novel construct which describes individual differences in users' cognitive orientation to online connectedness, their attention to and integration of online-related cues and stimuli and their prioritisation of online communication. Its proponents argue that it is acquired through the processes of instrumental and attentional training that underlie media use behaviours. The purpose of the present study is to investigate the role of three personal characteristics (emotional intelligence, rumination and identity distress) as predictors of online vigilance in addition to media use behaviour.


The authors adopted an exploratory frame and followed a survey-methodology to collect data among a sample of university students (n = 812). The resulting data were analysed through a hierarchical multiple regression process in which four models were considered.


The findings indicate that while media use behaviours (daily smartphone use, social media use, messaging, video watching and media multitasking) predict online vigilance, their combined effect is weak. However, when considering these behaviours in combination with trait rumination and identity distress, a moderate effect is observable.

Research limitations/implications

While the findings do not permit causal inference, it suggests that two personal characteristics, trait rumination and identity distress, play an important role in determining an individual's tendency or ability to psychologically disconnect from their online spheres. This provides an initial step towards the theorisation of online vigilance and the identification of individuals who may be at risk of acquiring it.


Online vigilance is a novel construct which has only been investigated in a small number of studies. However, its emphasis on psychological connectedness presents a unique and important development in the context of permanently online, permanently connected living. The present study is the first to explore its association with personal characteristics.



Le Roux, D.B. and Parry, D.A. (2022), "Investigating predictors of online vigilance among university students", Information Technology & People, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 27-45.



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