The Negative Effects of Internet Addiction in Children

It is almost impossible for today’s teens to do anything without depending on the Internet. However, as a parent, you should limit your child’s usage so that he doesn’t get addicted to it.

By Arun Sharma  • 8 min read

The Negative Effects of Internet Addiction in Children

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 (EIU) can cause a child to develop Internet addiction or compulsive internet use (CIU), which can cause several ill effects. It can also result in a range of harmful behaviour such as wrong use of social media, impulsive online buying, excessive video gaming and online gaming which is collectively termed as problematic use of the internet (PUI).

Let’s look at some of the causes and negative effects of Internet addiction and its negative influence on children and 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 to minimize the bad effect of excessive internet use on your child’s health, both mental as well as physical.

Negative effects of Internet addiction

Anxiety, sadness and depression: Kids or 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 or studies which is one of the bad effects of internet on students.

Sleep deprivation: Most kids and 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.

Negative impact of internet on society

Not only young children and teens, inappropriate use of the internet also negatively impacts the society. Here’s how:

  • Less interaction with family causes breakdown of social bonds
  • Less time spent bonding with real-world friends and with the environment
  • Exposure to false information and negative propaganda on the internet
  • Mental agony from exposure to cyberbullying and online stalking behaviour
  • High risk of falling victim to online scams and phishing attacks leading to financial loss
  • Recent threat of online radicalisation by extremist elements

If your child or 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. 

About the author:

Written by Arun Sharma on 31 August 2017; updated on 9 December 2019

Arun Sharma was associated with the healthcare industry before becoming a full-time writer and editor. A doting father to two preteens, he believes in experiential learning for his children. Also, he loves mountain trekking and nature trips.

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