If your teen is like most, he or she probably spends several hours a day in cyberspace. Some teens desperately need to be online, though, which could cause problems. Teens who use the Internet in an uncontrollable manner may be more likely to become depressed than normal Web users, according to research.
The recent study included 1,041 Chinese adolescents aged 13 to 18. The teens were assessed for anxiety and depression through a self-rating scale. Next, they completed a questionnaire to gauge whether they used the Internet normally or in a pathological way. An example question was, “How often do you feel depressed, moody, or nervous when you are offline, which goes away once you are back online?”
Most of the teens identified themselves as “normal” Internet users. More than 6 percent, or 62 teenagers, identified themselves as “pathological” users. After nine months, 84 of the teens were found to be clinically depressed. The pathological Web users were more than twice as likely to develop depression than the “normal” users. Results are published in Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
The study suggests that teenagers who are mentally healthy could develop depression as a result of unreasonable, compulsive Internet use. However, the authors note that such depression could be simply due to lack of sleep. Another possible cause of mood swings could be increased stress brought on by competitive gaming online.
We use the Internet for finding information, using email, chatting, entertainment, and commerce. In the future, we will conduct even more activities online. Is all this browsing bad for us? Internet use becomes problematic when it resembles other addictions. Signs and symptoms might include loss of interest in usual activities or agitation when not sitting in front of the computer.
This investigation is the first to examine pathological Internet use as a potential cause for depression. It is hoped the study will lead to an increase in screening students for Internet addiction to help prevent depression.
If you suspect a teen is becoming Web dependent, try the Internet Addiction Test. It’s always a good idea to monitor computer use and encourage additional interests in kids and teens. For most people, it’s okay to carry on clicking.