Internet Addiction Equals Depression for Many Teens

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A new study in China has shown that teens spending at least five to ten hours a day on the web are one and a half times more likely to develop depression than moderate users and researchers discovered a loss of interest in social interaction and other symptoms of addictive behavior among teens who spend an excessive amount of time browsing or playing games online. They additionally found that some teens show signs of anxiety while away from the computer.

Explaining Internet Addiction

Internet addiction is usually characterized by an inability to cut back on Internet usage, a fixation with the Web that affects day-to-day activities and withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and irritability and internet addiction equals depression for many teens.

This addiction has also already been linked to mental health problems. A study of Taiwanese teens, published last year in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, found that Internet-addicted participants were more likely to exhibit symptoms of ADHD and depression, as well as suffer from anxiety and hostility.

“They can take on an avatar or a different identity, and can contact other kids with the same problems and social inadequacies. They don't have to function in conventional social ways," Michael Gilbert, a senior fellow at the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication.

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"The internet is a big part of an adolescent's life and many times it's easy for adolescents to be consumed by the internet," said Dr. Robert Bonner, a pediatrician at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children. "They were depressed much like somebody who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the use of the internet is much like an addiction," said Dr. Bonner.

‘It looks like when the activity takes over the majority of the teenager's time. When they're away from it, they have the need to get back on it, and if they are unable to continue with the internet activity, depression starts to come in," Bonner stated.

Experts say parents should keep a close eye on their children, limiting screen time for both television and computer, to just two hours a day.

"If they find that their adolescent is spending enormous amounts of times on the computer, then they need to have a discussion with them, try to direct them in to other activities," said Dr. Bonner.

Because internet addiction equals depression for many teens, doctors say it's important to get teens to be active, with things like sports or school events.

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