Problematic Internet use (PIU) is on the rise among adolescents and young adults, which is taking a toll on their mental health, suggested a new study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS).
PIU refers to the different repetitive impairing behaviors involving the use of Internet, such as online streaming, buying, gambling, social media use, excessive video gaming, cybersex, and an uncontrollable urge to use the Internet.
As Internet use has hit new highs over the last two years (especially among adolescents), the study intended to draw a conclusion if current Internet usage behaviors and/or problematic Internet use is associated with psychological stress among adolescent users in India.
And, the results are really concerning…
The study, published in the Indian Journal of Social Psychiatry, observed 682 adolescents aged between 15 and 18 years, 495 of which were females. The online study was conducted between July and December 2020 in South India. Some of the concerning facts revealed by the study included:
- Internet addiction: 36.6 percent adolescents aged 15 to 18 years qualified for mild Internet addiction while 31.96 percent were struggling with moderate Internet addiction. Further, nearly 2.93 percent reported severe Internet addiction.
- Stress levels: Over 18.47 percent of the participants experienced mild levels of stress, 29.17 percent complained of moderate levels of stress and about 26.39 percent were battling severe psychological stress.
- Psychological stress and PIU: Adolescents experiencing psychological stress were more vulnerable to engage in PIU. Also, individuals with psychological stress were likely to develop Internet addiction.
More the age higher the risk
The researchers further concluded that adolescent participants in the older age group had comparatively higher risk for indulging in problematic Internet use. Students who were in final years of school education had lesser parental control than when they were in middle and higher school education years. The study raised a concern that adolescents who lacked control over self-initiated behaviors in the absence of proper parental monitoring were more vulnerable to problematic Internet use.
Both males and females were found to be almost equally vulnerable to problematic Internet use behavior patterns. A crucial factor associated with increased risk of PIU was found to be the amount of time an individual spent on the Internet.
“The increase in the duration of Internet usage has been found to be associated with the increase in the risk of severity levels of IA/PIU, and the same has been consistently suggested by research evidence from many studies,” the researchers, led by Dr. Manoj Kumar Sharma from the Service of Healthy Use of Internet (SHUT), NIMHANS reported.
In addition, adolescents who reported consistent use of smartphones and tablets had increased risk of PIU, owing to the mobility and easier accessibility to the Internet offered by these devices. “Such technological convenience appears to strengthen addictive or PIU behaviors,” the study asserted.
Adolescents who spent 5 hours per day online for nonacademic activities reported higher levels of PIU. It indicated a clear association between the time spent on the Internet per day and increased risk of PIU.
Need of PIU screening at school level
As evident, PIU has emerged as a significant mental health challenge among adolescent students. That is why, the study warranted mandatory screening of adolescents in schools to look for the signs of PIU and psychological stress.
Also, there is a need to introduce early intervention programs for early identification of the problems highlighted in the study. In addition, the study also demands awareness generation campaigns to educate school-going adolescents about the risks associated with excessive or problematic use of the Internet.
For more information about the hazards of excessive Internet use and protecting your children against the risk associated with it, call our 24 x 7 x 365 helpline 9289086193. We can guide you with ways to deal with problematic Internet usage and also offer residential treatment for your children. You can also chat online with our representatives or contact us through our WhatsApp number 92890 86193.