Internet Addiction Now Affects One in Twenty-Five Teens

A recent study done at Yale University administered questionnaires to students in 10 Connecticut High Schools which asked over 150 questions about health, risky behavior and impulsiveness including several about internet use.

Some interesting statistics came out of this study. Seventeen percent of boys and 13 percent of girls admitted to spending more than 20 hours per week online.

Three questions were asked to determine “problem Internet use”. Students were asked if they ever had an “irresistible urge” to be online, if they had experienced a “growing tension or anxiety that can be relieved only by using the Internet” or if they had tried to cut down or stop using the Internet. These are symptoms common to any addiction. Four percent of the respondents met the criteria for problem Internet use.

One concerning finding was that those teens who met the criteria for problem use were more likely to be depressed ad would get into serious fights more often. Boys who met the criteria were more likely to drink or use drugs.

This does not, by any means, prove that Internet use is the cause of these problems. It may be as likely that depressed or substance abusing teens are just more likely to use the Internet.

From personal experience, I can confirm that I’ve seen several teens the past few years who wound up really withdrawn and depressed who were spending many hours a day on the Internet. Late nights and lack of sleep can certainly worsen depression and make one more irritable. Teens who use drugs can become depressed, teens who are depressed may use drugs to try and treat themselves.

No matter which came first, excessive Internet use is definitely not a good thing. There are also the very real issues of cyber-bullying, drug dealing, access to pornography and Internet gambling as well.

As a parent, it is your right to limit your teen’s use of the Internet. It is your duty to teach them basic Internet safety and to make sure they know they can talk to you about anything that crops up online. I recommend no Facebook or MySpace pages. If your teen is given the privilege of having one, it needs to be on the stipulation that you need to be a “friend” and check their page regularly. Not only is that a good way to help them be safe, but also a way to be a bigger part in their lives.
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