Learn More About Internet Addiction

OVERVIEW

It must be obvious to just about anyone that large numbers of teens spend a good amount of time on the Internet. Most teens manage to balance time on the Internet with a host of other academic, athletic, and social interests. However, for some teens, time on the Internet turns into a serious behavior disorder that is more than a desire to be on the Internet too many hours of the day. Like other addictive behaviors, teen addiction to the Internet is characterized by a progressive loss of control over the ability to avoid, limit, or regulate the time spent on the Internet.

Thus far, experts have been unable to determine a specific cause for teen Internet addiction. It is generally thought that teens who suffer from disorders such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor self-image, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are at increased risk for Internet addiction. For these teens, spending time on the Internet releases endorphins, or brain chemicals that trigger feelings of pleasure. It is nearly impossible for them to limit their time on the Internet, even as their grades in school, outside activities, and friendships suffer from their hours online. It is not uncommon for them to distort or actually lie about their time on the Internet. Teens who are addicted to the Internet may also suffer a number of physical symptoms, including vision problems, insomnia, carpal tunnel syndrome, poor nutrition and/or personal hygiene, headaches, and back and neck pain. 1

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

Some Researchers Consider Internet Addiction to Be a Major Health Problem among Teens 2

Teens Who Are Addicted to the Internet Have an Increased Risk for Being Overweight

In a cross-sectional study published in 2014 in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, researchers from Turkey investigated the association between Internet addiction and eating attitudes and body mass index (BMI). The cohort consisted of 1,938 students between the ages of 14 and 18 years who completed a questionnaire. Slightly over half the students were female. The researchers found that 12.4 percent of the teens had an Internet addiction. And, having a computer with an Internet connection was associated with an increased BMI. Students who surfed the Internet, watched videos, talked in chat rooms and via instant messaging, and played online games were significantly associated with increased BMI. But, students who used the Internet for academic activities had lowered BMI. Other Internet activities, such as checking email and shopping, were not associated with BMI. 3

Internet Addiction May Exacerbate Depression and Hostility in Teens and Improvements in Internet Addiction May Be Useful in Lowering Levels of Depression, Hostility, and Social Anxiety

In a prospective study published in 2014 in the journal Comprehensive Psychiatry, researchers from Taiwan wanted to learn if an addiction to the Internet would exacerbate symptoms of depression, hostility, and social anxiety. The researchers recruited 2,293 students in grade 7 and assessed their Internet addiction, depression, hostility, and social anxiety. One year later, the same assessment was repeated. The teens who evolved from not addicted during the first assessment to addicted in the second assessment had increases in depression, especially among girls, and hostility. The teens who evolved from addicted in the first assessment to not addicted in the second assessment showed lower levels of depression, hostility, and social anxiety. The researchers noted that their study “revealed the negative mental health consequences of Internet addiction.” But, it also showed that students who were in “remission” from Internet addiction exhibited “beneficial mental health effects.” They recommended the implementation of prevention and intervention programs as early as possible to teens addicted to the Internet. 4

Parental Involvement Appears to Reduce the Incidence of Internet Addiction and Related Problems

In a study published in 2015 in Comprehensive Psychiatry, researchers from Taiwan wanted to learn more about the association between parental mediation and involvement and Internet addiction, cyberbullying, substance use, and depression in teens. The cohort consisted of over 1,800 junior high school students who completed questionnaires in 2013. One-seventh of the students were found to have an Internet addiction; the addiction was more likely to occur in male students than female students. And, students with poor school performance had an increased risk for Internet addiction. The researchers found that the students who perceived lower levels of parental attachment were more likely to experience Internet addiction, cyberbullying, smoking, and depression. On the other hand, students who reported higher levels of parental restrictions were less likely to experience Internet addiction or engage in cyberbullying. Adolescent Internet addiction was found to be associated with cyberbullying, victimization/perpetration, smoking, consumption of alcohol, and depression. The researchers noted that “measures such as promoting family functions and parental mediation of Internet use by children were needed to prevent Internet addiction and online risks.” 5

University Students Who Are Addicted to the Internet Tend to Be Shy and Aggressive

In a study published in 2013 in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, researchers from Turkey investigated the association between problematic Internet use and shyness, narcissism, loneliness, aggression, and self-perception in 424 male and female Turkish university students. The students ranged in age from 17 to 23 years. The researchers found positive associations between problematic Internet use and shyness and aggression. No statistically significant correlation was seen between problematic Internet use and narcissism, loneliness, or self-perception. The researchers concluded that their findings “will assist practitioners and researchers in identifying risk groups, taking preventive measures and adopting policies aimed at those risk groups.” 6

Parent-Adolescent Interaction May Well Play a Role in Fostering or Preventing Internet Addiction 7

BARRIERS AND PROBLEMS

Problematic Internet Use by Parents May Well Be Associated with Problematic Internet Use by Teens, Especially When the Teens Are Stressed

In a study published in 2015 in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers from Australia and Hong Kong investigated the association between parental problematic Internet use and problematic Internet use among their teenage children, who were 13 to 17 years old. Although the researchers began with over 1,000 parent and teen dyads, 263 teens and 62 parents were classified as moderate to severe problematic users of the Internet. About 14 percent of the teens were classified as having moderate to severe levels of stress. The researchers found a significant association between parental and teen problematic Internet use. The parents of the teens who had moderate to severe problematic Internet use were more than three times as likely to be classified with moderate to severe problematic Internet use. However, this relationship only held true for the teens who did not experience high levels of stress. The relationship became insignificant among teens who experienced high levels of stress. The researchers noted that their findings “have a direct implication on the clinical treatment, management, and prevention of PIU [problematic Internet use] among young people, particularly in East Asian countries where adolescent PIU is prevalent, and where parental influence on adolescents is a cultural characteristic.” 8

It Appears to Be Useful to Distinguish between Generalized Internet Addiction and Specific Internet Addiction 9

NOTES

1. Net Addiction, netaddiction.com, and Psych Central, psychcentral.com.

2. Tugce Koyuncu, Alaettin Unsal, Didem Arslantas, “Assessment of Internet Addiction and Loneliness in Secondary and High School Students,” Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association 64, no. 9 (2014): 998-1002.

3. Faith Canan, Osman Yildirim, Tuba Yildirim Ustunel et al., “The Relationship Between Internet Addiction and Body Mass Index in Turkish Adolescents,” Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 17, no. 1 (2014): 40-45.

4. Chih-Hung Ko, Tai-Ling Liu, Peng-Wei Wang et al., “The Exacerbation of Depression, Hostility, and Social Anxiety in the Course of Internet Addiction Among Adolescents: A Prospective Study,” Comprehensive Psychiatry 55 (2014): 1377-84.

5. Fong-Ching Chang, Chiung-Hui Chiu, Nae-Fang Miao et al., “The Relationship Between Parental Mediation and Internet Addiction Among Adolescents, and the Association with Cyberbullying and Depression,” Comprehensive Psychiatry 57 (2015): 21-28.

6. Hatice Odaci and Çiğdem Berber Çelik, “What Are Problematic Internet Users? An Investigation of the Correlations Between Problematic Internet Use and Shyness, Loneliness, Narcissism, Aggression and Self-Perception,” Computers in Human Behavior 29 (2013): 2382-87.

7. Jian Xu, Li-xiao Shen, Chong-huai Yan et al., “Parent-Adolescent Interaction and Risk of Adolescent Internet Addiction: A Population-Based Study in Shanghai,” BMC Psychiatry 14 (2014): 112+.

8. Lawrence T. Lam and Emmy M. Y. Wong, “Stress Moderates the Relationship Between Problematic Internet Use by Parents and Problematic Internet Use by Adolescents,” Journal of Adolescent Health 56 (2015): 300-306.

9. Christian Montag, Katharina Bey, Peng Sha et al., “Is It Meaningful to Distinguish Between Generalized and Specific Internet Addiction? Evidence from a Cross-Cultural Study from Germany, Sweden, Taiwan and China,” Asia-Pacific Psychiatry 7 (2015): 20-26.

REFERENCES AND RESOURCES

Magazines, Journals, and Newspapers

Canan, Faith, Osman Yildirim, Tuba Yildirim Ustunel et al. “The Relationship Between Internet Addiction and Body Mass Index in Turkish Adolescents.” Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 17, no. 1 (2014): 40-45.

Carli, V., T. Durkee, D. Wasserman et al. “The Association Between Pathological Internet Use and Comorbid Psychopathology: A Systematic Review.” Psychopathology 46 (2013): 1-13.

Chang, Fong-Ching, Chiung-Hui Chiu, Nae-Fang Miao et al. “The Relationship Between Parental Mediation and Internet Addiction Among Adolescents, and the Association with Cyberbullying and Depression.” Comprehensive Psychiatry 57 (2015): 21-28.

Király, Orsolya, Mark D. Griffiths, Róbert Urbán et al. “Problematic Internet Use and Problematic Online Gaming Are Not the Same: Findings from a Large Nationally Representative Adolescent Sample.” Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 17, no. 12 (2014): 749-54.

Ko, Chih-Hung, Tai-Ling Liu, Peng-Wei Wang et al. “The Exacerbation of Depression, Hostility, and Social Anxiety in the Course of Internet Addiction Among Adolescents: A Prospective Study.” Comprehensive Psychiatry 55 (2014): 1377-84.

Koyuncu, Tugce, Alaettin Unsal, and Didem Arslantas. “Assessment of Internet Addiction and Loneliness in Secondary and High School Students.” Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association 64, no. 9 (2014): 998-1002.

Lam, Lawrence T., and Emmy M. Y. Wong. “Stress Moderates the Relationship Between Problematic Internet Use by Parents and Problematic Internet Use by Adolescents.” Journal of Adolescent Health 56 (2015): 300-306.

Montag, Christian, Katharina Bey, Peng Sha et al. “Is It Meaningful to Distinguish Between Generalized and Specific Internet Addiction? Evidence from a Cross-Cultural Study from Germany, Sweden, Taiwan and China.” Asia-Pacific Psychiatry 7 (2015): 20-26.

Odaci, Hatice, and Çiğdem Berber Çelik. “Who Are Problematic Internet Users? An Investigation of the Correlations Between Problematic Internet Use and Shyness, Loneliness, Narcissism, Aggression, and Self-Perception.” Computers in Human Behavior 29 (2013): 2382-87.

Park, Subin, Kang-E M. Hong, Eun J. Park et al. “The Association Between Problematic Internet Use and Depression, Suicidal Ideation and Bipolar Disorder Symptoms in Korean Adolescents.” Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 47, no. 2 (2013): 153-59.

Şenormanci, O., G. Şenormanci, O. Güçlü, and R. Konkan. “Attachment and Family Functioning in Patients with Internet Addiction.” General Hospital Psychiatry 36 (2014): 203-7.

Szczegielniak, Anna, Karol Palka, and Krzysztof Krysta. “Problems Associated with the Use of Social Networks—A Pilot Study.” Psychiatria Danubina 25, Supplement 2 (2013): 212-15.

Xu, Jian, Li-xiao Shen, Chong-huai Yan et al. “Parent-Adolescent Interaction and Risk of Adolescent Internet Addiction: A Population-Based Study in Shanghai.” BMC Psychiatry 14 (2014): 112+.

Yao, Bin, Wei Han, Lingxia Zeng, and Xiong Guo. “Freshman Year Mental Health Symptoms and Level of Adaptation as Predictors of Internet Addiction: A Retrospective Nested Case-Control Study of Male Chinese College Students.” Psychiatry Research 210 (2013): 541-47.

Web Sites

Net Addiction. netaddiction.com .

Psych Central. psychcentral.com .

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.