Internet surfing is one of the currently most popular leisure activities among teenagers. Although the internet has helped expand social networks among them and release their emotional stress, it can lead to addiction (Du & Lyu, 2021). This essay analyzes adolescent internet addiction and the effect on this age group’s health behavior and general health.
Effects of Internet Addiction and External Stressors
According to Fitria et al. (2018), addiction among teenagers in the U.S. has a prevalence of 25%. Increasing addiction rates among adolescents are mainly contributed by internet overuse. This addiction to the internet is also linked to online social networking, cybersex, and gaming addiction. One of the major effects of teenagers’ internet addiction is that they may experience unfulfilled and unmet psychological needs in life.
Moreover, internet addiction may result in a negative social impact on teenagers. They are withdrawn or lose interest in occupational, recreational, school attendance, and social activities they previously enjoyed (Feng et al., 2019). It also negatively affects their general health. Different studies have demonstrated that the addicted group of adolescents has a lower well-being index (Yavuz, 2019, as cited in Feng et al., 2019). Adolescent internet addiction can also damage family relationships.
External stressors are the major driving factors that draw adolescents into internet addictions. Teenagers face many stressful issues as they grow, such as getting excellent grades, sports, making friends, puberty, and fitting in among their friends. A majority of them are normally in a stage where they redefine their relationships with their peers and parents and gain independence. Therefore, the internet offers a haven where they can keep their secrets because of its anonymity while maintaining open communication with other strangers or friends (Feng et al., 2019).
Internet addiction symptoms vary, but typical symptoms may be used on adolescents to assess the likelihood of internet addiction. These symptoms include negative social effects, more need to use the internet, depression or anger, withdrawal when the internet gadget is unavailable, and overuse (Feng et al., 2019). After the symptoms have been confirmed, the adolescent can undertake an internet addiction test (IAT). The IAT is a 20-item scale that quantifies the manifestation and extent of internet addiction. The 20 elements evaluate the traits and behaviors linked to obsessive internet use, such as dependency, compulsivity, and escapism (Černja et al., 2019). The questions from the test are randomized, where the score values for each question range from 0 to indicate a less radical behavior to 5 to indicate the most radical behavior (Samaha et al., 2018). This test is administered verbally.
The additional question that one would need to ask the teenager is about their social network, potential stress at home, and the urge to fit in their social circle. On ethical grounds, all the information that the teenager shares should be confidential unless they consent to share it with their parent or guardian. As the assessor, one should discuss with the teenager if any information is disclosed to the third party, especially if it involves serious threats or harm.
Treatment and Support
According to Bickham (2021), internet addiction among adolescents can be managed and treated through pharmacological and therapy support. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help change disturbing thoughts and related behaviors patterns. This therapy can help teenagers cope with psychological problems directly and healthily instead of relying on the internet. The pharmacological option involves treating for underlying conditions occurring with the addiction, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Bickham, D. S. (2021). Current research and viewpoints on internet addiction in adolescents. Current Pediatrics Reports, 9(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40124-020-00236-3
Černja, I., Vejmelka, L., & Rajter, M. (2019). Internet addiction test: Croatian preliminary study. BMC Psychiatry, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-019-2366-2
Du, G., & Lyu, H. (2021). Future expectations and internet addiction among adolescents: The roles of intolerance of uncertainty and perceived social support. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.727106
Feng, Y., Ma, Y., & Zhong, Q. (2019). The relationship between adolescents’ stress and internet addiction: A mediated-moderation model. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02248
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Samaha, A. A., Fawaz, M., El Yahfoufi, N., Gebbawi, M., Abdallah, H., Baydoun, S. A., Ghaddar, A., & Eid, A. H. (2018). Assessing the psychometric properties of the internet addiction test (IAT) among Lebanese College students. Frontiers in Public Health, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2018.00365
Yavuz, C. (2019). Does internet addiction predict happiness for the students of sports high school? International Online Journal of Educational Sciences, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.15345/iojes.2019.01.007