Teens With Internet Addiction

While some parents are concerned their teens may get hooked on drugs or alcohol, another growing concern for parents is teenage Internet addiction. A new study confirms parents have a right to worry, because there are many health and social issues for young people who spend too much time online. In fact, a new study found prolonged internet use to be linked to obesity, social isolation, skipping meals, sleeping problems, and developing depression and stress.

The subjects consisted of 2,433 male and female first-year students from The Chinese University of Hong Kong.  Each student was instructed to complete a survey that included questions about their daily habits, such as average Internet use, sleeping habits, hygiene, exercise, and social interaction.   The students were also asked about their health promoting behaviors during the year, such as eating a healthy diet and taking nutritional supplements.  The students were organized into three categories according to the amount of time spent on the Internet daily: light user (less than 1 hour), moderate user (one to four hours), and heavy user (more than four hours).

According to the results, the common profile for a heavy Internet user was a non-religious male studying engineering whose parents did not pursue higher education. Heavy internet users were the least likely to eat healthy meals, exercise, or engage in healthy hygiene practices. Even though the heavyInternet users were more likely to develop health problems, they were also the least likely to seek medical treatment and develop stress-relieving practices. Plus, they had less friends and romantic relationships. Interestingly, heavy Internet use was not associated with any type of substance abuse.

Despite the seemingly clear association between internet usage, health and social function, there are some limits to the study that should be considered. The study did not determine if heavy internet usage causes poor health choices and social dysfunction, or if individuals with poor health choices and social dysfunction are more attracted to the internet.

The researchers mentions two factors that could influence the amount of hours teenagers spend on the internet: early exposure to the internet and parental involvement.  A large portion of light Internet users were students who went to Hong Kong after the age of 16.  Many of those students came from Mainland China where there is less Internet exposure.  Kim also suggests that low parental involvement may explain the lack of health promoting behaviors. Decreased parental monitoring has been linked with poor academic performance and delinquent behavior, so it could also be associated with Internet addiction.

Fortunately, internet addiction can be prevented.  Here are a few suggestions on how parents can encourage their children to log off:

  • Introduce them to new activities that do not include the computer.
  • Set a limit on the amount of hours they can spend on the nIternet a day.
  • Most importantly, lead by example. If you limit the amount of time your child can spend on the computer, limit your time as well.

If you believe your child’s addiction is a result of a more serious issue, consult a counselor.

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72 Comments

  • Great information. My kids are constantly on the internet. I don’t know what they would do without out it. Oh yes I do:
    Eat regularly and sensibly
    Not talk on the phone and the internet at the same time
    Talk normally to us as parents
    Engage in less fraught activities – reading, writing,walking,board games

    Sadly those days are long gone. You gotta love the web!

  • When you were just a young kid did you spend time hangin with your parents or did you go out with your friends? Your kids are having fun. It just doesn’t include you so stop being jealous and let them live their own life. Also, they probably eat the food that around (I.e.) in your house so you can’t blame them for eating bad.

  • Classic case of bad science right there. First off, spending a lot of time on the internet may not be the cause of “obesity, social isolation, skipping meals, sleeping problems, and developing depression and stress”, but rather it’s the other way around. All these things are often the cause of high internet usage. Of course they are LINKED, link does not mean causation mmmkay?

    Secondly, this research is so opinionated and pointless it’s not even funny. What you consider bad is just an opinion on your part, and your children may not agree. Contrary to popular belief, your opinion isn’t worth a penny more than your childs opinion is worth.

    Skipping meals– I never got this one. Why is it bad exactly, that your child does not eat at the exact same time you do? Is your relationship with your children so bad that you use it as an excuse to be with your children because you have nothing else to do with them?

    Social isolation– How the hell is forcing your child to be social going to encourage him to actually be social? If they are socially isolated, it’s likely because they have had bad experiences with other people, or they just don’t know many people that they have anything in common with. Forcing your children to spend time with people they don’t like is hardly going to help the matter.

    Obesity– is most often caused by the child learning bad eating habits while they grow up, in the ages 3-10. Granted, it can, and often does, get worse with time. Internet usage certainly does not CAUSE obesity. Though I suppose it won’t make you any less fat, it won’t necessarily make you any more fat either, because your body has stored information about your body weight and works to maintain that body weight, even if you are obese. If an obese person started excersizing, and didn’t put a limit on how much he ate, would just start eating more than he did before he started excersizing, and so not lose much weight at all.

    Sleeping problems– simple. You have trouble sleeping, you might decide to spend time on the internet instead of wasting time staring at the roof for 3 hours while trying to sleep.

    Depression and stress– if you enjoy spending time on the internet, it’s a way of negating those feelings. It certainly doesn’t make things worse.

    Also, calling it an addiction is an insult to every single drug addict, their family and all their friends, on the planet. It’s just about addictive as anything else you would do for fun and to relieve stress, that does not involve chemicals that make you physically addicted.

    Damnit, but “research” like this makes me lose faith in humanity.

  • What if kid is doing good and creative activities above internet? I think these stress and sleeping problems are caused by inactive activities above internet like usage of dating, chatting, social networking websites above internet.

  • What if kid is doing good and creative activities above internet? I think these stress and sleeping problems are caused by inactive activities above internet such as usage of dating, chatting, social networking websites above internet.

  • You posted “According to the results, the common profile for a heavy internet user was a non-religious male studying engineering whose parents did not pursue higher education.” but I couldn’t find any more information in any of the links you posted. I’m very interested in reading more into it, because all of that describes me to the point where it’s actually eerie. I feel targeted, and then to add onto that, I can’t find any actual mention of claimed results in the links posted.

  • Its gonna be a addiction today to be a net savvy.. one cannot think himself/herself without the networking or connectivity with the whole globe..its being a poisonous way to make people attracted towards it..!!

  • Symptoms of Internet Addiction:

    People who have Internet addiction tend to have mixed feelings of both joy and guilt while on the computer. They generally lose track of time and neglect responsibilities. They uncontrollably use the computer to relieve stress, cheer up or for sexual gratification. They feel anxious or irritable when away from the computer and are more likely to alienate themselves from family and friends, generally preferring to make their social connections with strangers online.
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  • This news seems to have come very late in the day. Internet addiction is a serious form of addiction and it can spoil lives. As they say, every invention has its downside. It was not visible early on as everyone was busy making their presence felt ONLINE, but it feels that the buzz has dried and now folks are waking up to its high addictiveness. Teens are easy prey and often they are shut in their rooms, playing either Playstation or chatting away to glory on the Net. It surely has its hazards apart from its usefulness. An awareness campaign should be started very soon so that the teens gets out their rooms and face the REAL world that they have been avoiding for so long. The point is, Internet is a tool for get information and its not a person that you be with it throughout the day. Wake up and Shut that SCREEN NOW !!!

  • I have created an internet time limiting software application, which I think your readers may be interested in knowing about. I came across your website while I have been looking for people who are facing the same problems as we had.

    The application is free, totally free: I am a computer program developer who has teenagers at home.

    We tried everything to manage the time they spend on the computer: nothing worked, so I created an application to control the amount of time they spend on the internet. The application has evolved over a year until the kids are happy with it and so am I.

    I want to share this application with everyone so that they can benefit from the help it did for us, it really changed our lives.

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  • Internet is a big addiction and it is yet to dawn upon the people. Do you know that lot of kids today are hooked over the internet for long hours and chatting with total strangers and risking their lives and privacy? This is bad and parents should be made aware of it. Internet addiction is a serious thing and measures should be taken to curb it at the primary level. We need a campaign soon for this problem. Good article.

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  • I think a tipping point for fusing “health” and “care” was reached with the federal legislation setting up the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality at the end of 1999. AHRQ was a renamed.

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  • Internet addiction, sometimes referred to as cyberspace addiction or online addiction, can manifest itself in many ways in today’s teens.

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  • yes, internet do effect healthy living, children preffer sitting on net rather then playing in park, they like to stay in constant conversation with friends but spend no time with family in hall, they just need way to put their mind into something.. i dont know how they find it cool… first their was one idiot box know as TV, now he got a cousin that Computer…

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  • Internets are becoming essential part of our life..I think in future none can live without internet..Its need of busy lifestyle..

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