Nowadays, individuals cutting across generations use the Internet. However, it is teens who use it more than other age groups. They use it for various reasons, from taking help for academics in the form of online tuitions to staying connected with their peers and family. However, excessive Internet use can cause a child to develop Internet addiction, which can cause several ill effects. Let’s look at some of the causes and negative effects of Internet addiction in teens.
Causes of Internet addiction:
Teens can develop Internet addiction due to various reasons like trying to escape loneliness and depression, social anxiety, and intense desire to search for knowledge.
More recently, Montag et al published their study titled, ‘The Role of the CHRNA4 Gene in Internet Addiction: A Case-control Study’, in the Journal of Addiction Medicine. According to this study, the rs1044396 polymorphism on the CHRNA4 gene exerts “pleiotropic effects on a vast range of behaviours, including cognition, emotion, and addiction.” Individuals with this polymorphism may be predisposed to Internet addiction.
While, as a parent, you cannot do much about any genetic factor, you can surely exercise control over other factors.
Negative effects of Internet addiction
Anxiety, sadness and depression: Teens who spend most of their time in the virtual world gradually move away from the real world and start living in a world of fantasy. After a certain period, they become dependent on the Internet to feel upbeat. And, when they are unable to access the Internet, they start experiencing anxiety, sadness and depression.
Unable to keep schedules: Teens use the Internet to do a lot of things like looking for information, corresponding, paying bills, and doing financial transactions. However, in the case of Internet addicts, they spend most of their time engaged in browsing, chatting or gaming, instead of doing what they are actually supposed to do. Also, they are unable to keep track of the time they spend in doing such activities. As a result, they are not able to keep up with their schedules.
Sleep deprivation: Most teens nowadays own smartphones and/or tablets, which they carry with them wherever they go, even to the bed. They also use these devices to hook on to the Internet before going to sleep to catch up on what’s happening around them. While normal teens may log off after a while, those addicted to the Internet keep browsing for long hours. As a result, they suffer sleep-related issues like late sleep time, insufficient or restless sleep, and late waking time. This sleep deprivation/disturbance can also worsen or magnify symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Social isolation: Those who spend a lot of time on the Internet tend to become a part of one or several online communities. They end up developing close friendships or intimate relationships with a lot of individuals. To remain connected with these individuals, Internet addicts stay online for long hours. Owing to such behaviour, Internet addicts often end up isolating themselves from their families and peers.
Dishonesty and lying: Almost all Internet addicts understand that they have a problem. However, when confronted or questioned by family members, friends or employers, they try to conceal their habit. They try to do this by either lying or being dishonest about the time they spend on the Internet.
Mood changes: Internet addicts use the Internet to reduce their stress and boost their mood. They feel happy or euphoric when they are connected to the Internet. However, if they have to stop using the Internet or are unable to access it, they become gloomy or irritated and angry.
If your teen is also in possession of gadgets that help him connect to the Internet whenever he wants to, be aware of the above-mentioned negative effects. And, if you suspect that your teen is on his way to becoming an Internet addict, seek help from a counsellor or a psychologist at the earliest.