addictive use of the internet is not necessarily a new phenomenon, however practitioners are unware of the actual negative implications of physical and mental addiction that comes with internet use. Takeshi Sato’s extensive research into internet addiction among Japanese youth has elucidated many problems both physical and mental that comes with such prolonged addiction. He argues that internet addiction among youth (IAD) is underestimated because there have been little formal definitional work on what IAD actually is. A comparison of internet addiction with traditional methods of addiction diagnosis helps map out the relative complexity of IAD. The DSM-IV model shows that prior research defined internet addiction as an “impulse control disorder that does not entail an intoxicant” (NOTATION). Using models based on gambling addiction, Sato formulated criteria dissecting internet addiction through the DMS-IV model, which has significantly shaped how we can view internet addiction.
In his landmark research “Caught in the Net,” Young set about to create a definitive test using the DSM-IV, which resulted in the Internet Addiction Test (IAT). This test along with patient feedback has painted an alarming picture in regards to IAD especially among youth. Using the IAT test among youth worldwide, internet addiction especially within college has risen over 200% in the past five years. In Korea, 39.6% of college teenagers were found to have mild to severe IAD, with detrimental effects to both their physical and psychological health.
With regard to the characteristics of internet addiction among youth, Greenberg reported that there are specific gender patterns associated with addictive tendencies. Analysis of individual behaviors within substantive studies show that men have much higher levels of addiction to ciggerates, alcohol, video games and internet use. His research further translates a strong connection between low self-esteem and internet addiction, and found that self-esteem was the strongest predicator of internet addiction and the amount of time spent on the internet per week. Among Korean youth, depression and suicidal ideation were highest among the IAD group.
Part of the conflicting data regarding the physical and psychological implications of internet addiction is the discrepancy from data involving youth and adults. Adult internet addiction seems to have much more severe consequences on mental health than recent research conducted on youth. Greensburg argues that this distinction is caused by the demographic differences between adults and youth. Adults who have IAD are typically pathological externalized in other forms such as severe addiction to gambling, depression or other addictions found through DSM-IV methods. Whereas internet addiction among youth has become a systematic part of teenage culture, and thus is much more socially accepted and viably integrated. However, Michael A. Weinstein notes within his research that such addiction has caused youth internet users to “lose the savvy and skills and patience to conduct social relations in the corporeal world,” furthermore, he argues that the internet intensifies the negative effects of television addiction up to four times. Overall, many researchers have found evidence to suggest that detoriating values and social functioning among youth may be part of the foundational effects of internet addiction.
The problem of internet addiction within contemporary youth has been the thematic study of Amanda Lenhart and Mary Madden of the Pew Institute for the past five years. Lenhart’s study concludes that American teens live in “a world enveloped by communications technologies: the internet and cell phones have become a central force that fuels the rhythm of daily life” (NOTATION). This disturbing trend has had many consequences on the physical and psychological implications on youth. The numbers regarding teenage addiction are truly astounding. The number of teens who are using the internet has grown over 24% in the past four years, to 87% of all teens between the age of 12 and 17. Compared to data collected for years ago, Lenhart finds the trend of broader and more intensified internet use among teens to be extremely disturbing.
Lenhart argues that such trends are attributed to youth playing out their extensive social and creativity channels through internet use. The proliferation of online games, chatting websites, news, shopping and friendship websites have led teens to create “pseudo” identities over the internet that more and more closely resemble their real life persona. The danger of such a trend is obvious, a progressive increase in anti-social and prevailingly introverted changes within teens have created social ineptitude with the contemporary generation. With greater variety in technologies that teens use to support their communication, digital transference have replaced physical contact. Lenhart believes that the most prominent health damage is psychological. Teens no longer define themselves through physical environments, but rather use virtual environments as their grounds for social communication and interaction.
Mary Wieland, a sociologist with the University of Pittsburgh suggests that computer addiction may lead to severe depression, gambling, substance abuse and marital infidelity and ultimately divorce among adults. Her research shows that internet addiction causes the limitations of human interaction to broaden beyond the physical environment that they occupy, which implies a regression of boundaries and personal relationships over the long-term. For youth the implicit assumption is that heavy internet use results in negligence of social networks outside of the virtual arena. Developing strong psychological dependencies with the internet, rather than physical relationships.
So far the focus of this literary study has been on the definitional interpretation of IAD and how it has grown to affect youth, however specific research on the actual physical and mental affects of IAD within teens have been less substantive. Several reasons can be attributed to this. Although current research have focused on the impact of IAD on the health of youth, conflicting data has led to an impasse within the scientific community. From a psychological approach, research conducted by Young and Sato suggest that there are both positive and negative consequences of IAD addiction in youth. The integration of technology within teenage culture have implied that internet addiction often does not detract from most forms of social engagement and ability to communicate. Within many subjects internet addiction has not led to a decrease in self-esteem, but moreover a greater sense of social connectivity because of a broader virtual domain and network. In direct contradiction however, Sato shows that internet addiction causes severe reticence among youth, especially those who spend more than five hours per day on the internet. Self-esteem decreases because the lack of physical socialiability takes away emotional security and the foundation of support. Isolation occurs, as a result, and teenagers are induced to either seek comfort through even greater prolonged internet use or to delve introspectively through suicidal and severely depressive thought. In support of his research, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese youth who have the most severe IAD have expressed strong suicidal and depressive tendencies. With 70% of Korean IAD youth having seriously considered suicide. However, some argue that this is an extreme case, because social isolation only occurs within rare cases of internet addiction. Research within American teens suggest that les than 10% of teens feel severe isolation as a result of internet addiction. It is because, the internet has become the facilitator of actual physical relationships through the creation of virtual identities that match their physical persona.
Although emotional withdrawal has been identified as the principle mental disfunction associated with internet addiction, such emotional distress tends to be a predicator of deeper psychological problems associated with internet addiction. Katherine Chak’s recent research shows that individuals drawn to internet addiction tend to already exhibit behavioral tendencies towards shyness. The less “faith a person has, the firmer belief the person holds in the irresistible powers of others and the higher trust the person places on chance in dermining his or her own course of life” (NOTATION). Social withdrawal among youth IAD can have severe affects on their future success in both personal and career success.
Research into physical health afflictions as a direct result of IAD among youth are less than encouraging. IAD as diagnosed through the DSM-IV method displays similar characters and physical symptoms as other addictions. Wieland explains that traditional physical implications of IAD are “cyber shakes,” which occur when addiction withdrawal becomes internalized. For youth this is an especially strong concern because physical addiction at an early age results in intensified behavior. At the first sign of such physical addiction symptoms such as “cyber shakes” youth tend to prolong their internet use significantly and thus neglect themselves physically. Severe cases of starvation and mal-nutrition have been observed for those who display physical symptoms of addiction. Dry eyes and carpal tunnel syndrome are also observable physical problems associated with such addiction. However, Wieland has found that the disturbing trend is the lack of attention that results from consistent internet use and IAD among youth. Internet addiction has been shown to cause a detachment from the physical environment in which youth occupy, and as a result, they develop a strong lack of attention and focus especially attributed to their daily reality. This is indicative of poor judgement and results in “lower grades in school, job loss, and indebtedness.” Another strongly associated physical symptom is the persistence of migraine. Wieland observes that 40% of severe IAD youth take medication for migraine. The physical detriment of migraine develops into lifelong problems that are many times hard to cure or incurable.
The physical health of youth internet addicts are hard to dissect, partly this is because physical health often results from psychological addiction, and as a result, are attributed to traditional addict like symptoms and affects. The negligence of addicts in relations to their health causes indirect health problems, that may not be directly linked to IAD, but internet use lies at the heart of how such problems will occur and are dissected.
The problem of internet addiction among youth has been carefully dissected through both social and scientific constructs. However, prevailing research into the actual physical and mental health of youth as a direct result of internet addiction has been lacking. The specific research question that this study will center on what the direct relationship between time spent on the internet by young adults is with their physical and mental health.
In order to assess the correlation between time spent and health among teens the development of a questionnaire to survey participants focuses on establishing the connection between these two variables. The population pool is selected from local college students within our demographic. Although this sample population does have a diversified pool, they will be randomly stratified from a diversity of students on this campus. In total we will select 20 research participants between the ages of 18 and 23.
They will be blinded in terms of race, gender, etc. however, they will be selected on the basis of internet use. The sample pool will focus on the correlation between high internet use and significant health concerns, therefore participants will be those individuals who use the internet at a minimum of 20 hours per week for non-academic related purposes.
In this study, the use of regression model analysis will be used to assess the ccorrelation between the two variables, to explore the significant predicators upon which IAD rests. The independent variable within this study will be the actual profile of the individuals selected for this test. This includes their demographic location, background, socio-economic status, habitual backgrounds in the use of the internet. The factor that will be isolated within the independent variable category and used in comparison within the regression model will be the number of hours an individual spends on the internet in non-academic use per week.
The dependent variables that we will assess is the mental and physical health problems of students. In order to test such a broad statement of health, we will isolate the particular symptoms associated with internet addiction as well as the general feeling of health associated with how these individuals feel. The purpose in creating both a broad and specific interpretation of this model is to how individuals isolate their condition and how they personally internalize their internet addiction in association with their health.
The actual procedure approached with this study will be to isolate the participants within this study. The questionnaire will be given to them in an isolated environment and they will have five minutes to complete the 20 question survey. When they are completing the survey there will be no one else in the room and they will be completely alone. The goal is not to pressure them when they are given the survey, and the survey will be put into a database on the subject of anomonity to ensure that their answers are honest.
Since the sample population will be picked based on their internet use on a per weekly basis, the use of an individuals who do not have significant internet addiction will be compared with those who do and thus the direct analysis will look at how we can conclusively monitor internet addiction through our this process.
Answer the following questions on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being that you agree the most and 1 being you completely disagree, unless directed by the question to do otherwise.
How many hours on a weekly basis do you use the internet for non-academic related used?
How often do you experience staying online longer than you originally intended?
How often do you experience loss of sleep related to late night internet use?
Do you experience feeling better when you are online vs. offline?
Do you experience the desire to assume online personas in real life?
Have you ever experienced preference for being online rather than the intimacy of spending time with your partner?
Do you feel that life without the internet would be boring, empty or joyless?
Do you anticipate using the internet when you are engaged in your daily activities
Do you feel less of a connection with your friends in physical settings than when you communicate online?
Do you habitually visit websites and chatrooms that you deem to be your own?
Do you have more friends online than you do in your physical environment?
Do you find a deeper connection to your online persona than your physical one?
Do you suffer from carpal tunnel disease?
Do you suffer from migraines, unexplained headaches, or undue mental stress?
Do you experience weakness and fatigue after long sessions of internet use?
Does long internet use demotivate you from leaving your residence or spending time with partners or friends?
Do you often miss meals or eat junk food while you are in the middle of an online session?
Have you ever experienced severe eye pain or disorientation after heavy internet use?
Would you characterize yourself as an average healthy individual?
Do you think there is a correlation between your internet usage and your physical health?
Participants within the study show a slight correlation between physical and mental health problems in association with long internet use. Participants who use the internet more than 30 hours per week for non-academic purposes reported a slightly greater level of physical health problems. They answered a strongly to questions regarding migraine headaches and especially missing meals as well as heavy eye soreness. However, overall participants all characterized themselves as of average health and that their internet use does not have a negative impact on their health. We will examine the results through two breakdowns, those who spend more than 20 hours on non-academic internet use and those who spend less than 20 hours. Secondly a look at questions that examine their mental health vs. those that attempt to examine their physical health.
Participants that spend more than 20 hours per week tend to answer aggressively on questions associated with affinity with their online identity. Most strongly agreed that they often spend more time than they originally intended online. This can be a heavy indicator of IAD, which suggests that the lack of time management or the losing of time awareness is one of the primary indicators of internet addiction. They also answers positively in associating the lack of sleep due to internet use. Compared to those individuals who spend less than 20 hours, they tend to have less of a sense of time management and a greater affinity to friendships established online. However, both groups compared favorably in questions assessing their personal relationships. With everyone answering that they would rather spend physical time with friends and loved ones rather than “virtual time.” However, those with more than 20 hours answered aggressively on the question of whether their life would be boring and joyless without the internet. This is another strong indicator of IAD according to Young’s DSM-IV analysis. The trend established in this comparison is that those who use the internet more than 20 hours exhibit a far greater dependency upon online use than those who do not. They tend to lose themselves within their virtual identity. However, unlike traditional hypothesis on social withdrawal as a result of IAD, those individuals who favor heavy online use still seem to desire spending physical time with others. Overall the data between this comparison is similar across both category types.
For participants who have over 20 hours of online time, mental health seems to be slightly below that of those under 20 hours. They answers more aggressively on questions that asked their need for the internet as an emotional support. On the question of feeling better online than offline, those who spent more than 20 hours answered more aggressively. This can be linked as a sign of social withdrawal and another IAD characteristic. Another area that stands out in terms of the psychological health is that they take ownership over certain websites and chat rooms that they call their own. This possessiveness of their online identities is a symptom of emotional dependence on established virtual identities. It is a distinctive question because those who spent less than 20 hours answered this question very differently. In general it can be concluded that those who use the internet more than 20 hours tend to depend on it as an emotional crutch and as a result, feel less comfortable in the physical environment than their virtual environment. Most of them answered aggressively when asked about how much they anticipate going online, which again shows how much they are attached to the concept of using the internet. Although there are noticeable differences between the answers posited by the two groups, the differences are not as dramatic as we originally hypothesized, but rather only slight variations.
When the two groups are compared on their physical health, the results are almost completely comparable across both groups. Those who spent more than 20 hours report a slightly higher perception of migraines and headaches, although their answers are mirrored by the less than 20 hours group as well. On questions regarding carpal tunnel, sleep deprivation, etc. The two groups answered almost identically. The only question that the two groups differed significantly upon was on missing meals and eating junk food as a result of internet use. The over 20 hours group responded extremely aggressively to this question, while the under 20 hours group only had middling responses. In context, the question explores whether or not internet addiction has an impact on the diet that an individual pursues. It is suggestive that prolonged internet use may develop unhealthy eating habits from this data. However, all participants said that they view themselves in average or above average physical shape and that internet use did not damage their health significantly. Surprisingly, those who use the internet under 20 hours answered more aggressively when asked if there is a direct correlation between internet use and health problems. This could be because they are more aware of the possible implications and therefore do not use the internet nearly as much as the secondary group. If there are severe physical health consequences within this group both sides are not aware of such problems and therefore it is extremely hard to assess the difference between these two factors.
Although we attempted to meticulously collect the data and ensure that there are no confounding variables, the reliability of our test can still be impacted by several different factors. First, the lack of a large demographic sample size means that most of these students have the same socio-economic status, and are homogenous across their backgrounds, which could have impacted the study. Additionally, since we only had a total of twenty participants the sample size was not large enough to see significant trends that we were hoping to observe. However, since the restrictions of time and budget were in question both these factors could not be mitigated. Another confounding variable could be our survey itself, because of the way we have phrased the survey there could be biases established through it that we are not aware of. However, the neutrality of our tone throughout the survey should have mitigated any significant damage as a result of survey bias. Although we attempted to conduct the test with complete animonity this could not be perfectly achieved because of the time and space restrictions. This could have had an impact on how the individuals answered the questions. The place where they answered the questions was also suspect because we often had to rush participants, and most took less than the five minutes allotted to finish the survey. Despite these evident confounding variables which could have skewed our data, we believe that overall the data was accurately collected and the results show the best possible distribution from our methods. Several areas that could be improved in future additions of this research study are as follows. An increase in the demographic and sample size will make the data much more accurate. Having a more detailed questionnaire would help us narrow down the selection as well as having more accurate methods of recording the data so that individuals are isolated and do not feel the need to rush and complete our survey.
From our data it is evident that that associated between physical and mental health and prolonged internet use is not something that can be easily studied or dissected. This is because individuals themselves are very unaware of how much internet use can have on their health. The only way to conduct a complete study of participants is to actually conduct a time delayed study on youth who experience internet addiction and monitor their physical and mental health throughout an extended time. From our study, we can conclude however that there is a difference in the mental and physical health of individuals, however slight. This can mostly be attributed to how individuals act and feel about the internet and their online persona. It is evident that those who have prolonged internet use, become attached to the internet and this could be very much detrimental to their actual relationships. However, it appears that it is untrue that majority of heavy internet users experience social withdrawal as all participants still felt strongly about their actual physical relationships. Health problems associated with prolonged internet use could very much be indirectly associated such as health problems as a result of mal-nutrition or consistent junk food binges.
Despite the inconclusive findings in this particularly study, the correlation between prolonged internet use and health problems is a tangible one. Addiction in any sense has a negative impact on how we act and perform, the association of internet addiction as a new cultural phenomenon makes us think that it is not a real problem. However, research highlighted within this study by prominent sociologists and psychologists show that IAD among youth is a serious problem that could have serious consequences. Therefore more studies need to be conducted within this field to accurately assess how we can confront the problems brought about by prolonged internet usage.
The problem of IAD among youth is that it is extremely hard to dissect because of the much more integrated social implications of internet use. Adult IAD can easily be monitored and seen as an aberration in behavior because adult social networks continue to be rooted within their established physical environment. This is no longer true for younger generations where social networks and information transference all occur over the internet rather than in the physical environment. Just as the cultural phenomenon of television caused researchers problems in the 1970s and 80s, internet usage among youth today also falls in that grey area between acceptable and problematic. The medical reasons for why internet usage in general could have negative implications are very hard to elucidate because many such effects are secondary. However, we cannot ignore data that says suicide and depression rates are highest among teens who have IAD.
The conclusion of this study is that we need much more effort in controlling severe IAD among youth. Research into the effects of IAD in youth must be broadened and studied extensively through time studies. If such implications are negatively related than we must begin to isolate such problems and allow parents as well as youth to understand the danger they are under if they continue their current practices. The chief problem with IAD in the current environment is that youth do not know it is a problem, the social phenomenon attributed to online usage means that most youth think their obsession with the internet is normal. Awareness therefore is the first step necessary for us to begin the process of helping those with severe IAD among youth to recognize some of the dangerous health concerns related to their habit.
Dvorak, J. (1997). Net addiction. PC/Computing,10, 85-87
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Gawel. (1999). Web addition. Electronic Design, v47. (p32)
Wallace, A. (1999). The psychology of the internet. New York: Cambridge University Press
Weinstein, M.A. (1998). Net game – an american dialogue. [Online]. Available: www.ctheory.com/ga1.12-net_game.html
Young, K.S. (1998). Caught in the net. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Simon, M. (1997). How internet has an effect on the social skills of children. The Vocal Point [Online]. Available: http://bvsd.k12.co.us/cent/Newspaper/dec97/p7/stories/simon.html
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