Teens and the Internet: Social Media Addiction

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Today’s teenagers have never lived in a world without the Internet. The Internet functions as an incredibly efficient way to stay connected, an endless source of information, as well as a highly engaging form of entertainment. However, Internet use can be so consuming that it evolves into an obsession that quickly becomes an addiction. Internet addiction can impact anybody of any age, race, gender or religion, but it’s become increasingly common among adolescents. In a 2018 study published by Pew Research Center 95% of American adolescents age 13-17 report having a Smartphone or access to one and 45% of teens say they use the internet almost constantly (Anderson, 2018).

Addiction to the Internet, although not officially recognized as a disorder, is referred to as “Internet Addiction Disorder” and can be further characterized as Problematize Internet Use, Dysfunctional Internet Use, Compulsive Internet Use, or Internet Dependency (Wallace, 2005). Most people addicted to the Internet appear to be addicted to a specific medium on the Internet. However, it’s more likely that they’re addicted to a specific activity carried out online. For example, a person who appears to be addicted to Facebook is more likely addicted to the activities they perform on Facebook as opposed to Facebook itself. To better understand this concept one must look at the types of Internet activities people engage in.

Dr. Kimberly Young, world Internet addiction expert, argues that there are five types of Internet activity addictions: computer addiction, information overload, net compulsion, cybersexual addiction, and cyber-relationship addiction (Young, 1999). One of the most common forms of Internet activity addiction in adolescence is cyber-relationship addiction. Cyber-relationship addiction encompasses the use of Social Networking Sites (SNS) such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Much like substance abuse addicts, a person addicted to SNS often exhibits symptoms such as mood modifications, conflict, withdrawal, tolerance, and relapse (Kuss, 2011).

Internet addiction can be attributed to the relationship between evolving technology and need to complete a variety of daily tasks. Much of what we do on a daily basis (school, work, entertainment, and shopping) can be done on the Internet. Internet technology helps make our lives easier, but we need to rethink how we use it when it becomes detrimental to our lives. As noted above, addiction to social networks is one of the most common Internet addictions among adolescents. One of the driving forces behind SNS use is what society has referred to as the “Fear of Missing Out” or FOMO.

Some of the major mental health concerns arising from a teen’s relationship with the Internet include anxiety, ADHD, social phobias, and depression. Physical health concerns include poor diet, lack of sleep and reduced exercise physical activity. Each of these can increase the risk of obesity and other health concerns among teens. Additionally, studies show that the more time students spend on the Internet the more likely their grade point average (GPA) will suffer (Mishra, 2014). The most troubling part about Internet addiction is that if a person is suffering from it, he or she is endlessly surrounded by it, especially as students.

Like most disorders, we’re not likely to pinpoint the exact cause of Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD). This disorder is characteristic of having multiple contributing factors. For instance, IAD could be an extension of other addictive behaviors like gambling or the result of people that suffer from social anxiety and find face-to-face communication too difficult. Furthermore, it might be a result of peer influence, low self-esteem, depression, control, accessibility, or excitement. Some evidence suggests that people suffering from IAD have a similar brain makeup to those that suffer from a chemical dependency. Studies even suggest that IAD can even lead to structural changes to the prefrontal region of the brain (Liu, 2013).

In addition to impressionability being a risk for adolescent Internet addiction, daily Internet use is an academic requirement as technology is increasingly implemented in the classroom. Even if an adolescent wanted to refrain from the Internet to reduce the threat of becoming addicted, it would be nearly impossible for them to do so without compromising their education. In a way, adolescents are at the mercy of technology and the Internet because it’s something that is constantly put in front of them to use. Internet addiction among adolescents is becoming more than just an addiction; it’s becoming a way of life (Cash, 2012).

Internet Addiction Disorder is very real and can have devastating impacts on adolescent development. Although the symptoms of IAD might be similar to substance abuse, many families and therapists are unprepared to treat the disorder. One problem with treating Internet addiction is in determining the root cause. Too often we assume that an addiction is completely dependent on the existence of the thing a person is addicted to, in this case the internet. However, we cannot say that if there were no Internet a person would be completely free of any form of addiction.

The most common culprit of Internet addiction, or any addiction, is the existence of an addictive personality and or compulsive behavior. The causes for this type of personality or behavior can be the result of any number of reasons such as neurobiological vulnerabilities, the reinforcement/reward factor, biological predisposition to addictive behaviors, or mental health vulnerabilities. When suffering from addiction, a person becomes compulsively dependent on a particular stimulation to the point that seeking a constant supply of the stimulation becomes the sole purpose of their lives. This isn’t necessarily the case with Internet Addiction Disorder (Vondráčková, 2016).

There’s no denying that people use the internet in a compulsive manner that can be to the point that it affects their ability to function at work, school, and in social relationships. However, mental health professionals are split as to whether Internet addiction is real. The argument is whether or not people are addicted to the Internet itself or to the stimulation or information provided on the web. This is an important distinction to understand because knowing if a person is addicted to the stimulation or the actual Internet will impact how to treat the addiction.

Internet addiction encompasses several different types of addictions. One of the most common is adolescent addiction to Social Networking Sites (SNS) or Teen Social Media Addiction. The most effective treatment to for SNS addiction is prevention. However, for the high percentage of adolescents that already report constantly being connected to the Internet, prevention is no longer an option. However, prevention is something that must be implemented moving forward. Schools can be incredibly effective in helping adolescents deal with Social Media Addiction by launching an awareness campaign designed to promote responsible social media use among teens.

The goal of the campaign is to prevent and treat Social Media Addiction by reducing the amount of time that teens spend on social media. By reducing the time spent on social media this will help to reduce the amount of time teens spend preoccupied or distracted from engaging in real-world experiences. The level of addiction between teens will differ so the treatment will vary depending on the teen’s specific situation. Regardless of the level of addiction and treatment, treating Social Media Addiction requires a series of intervention steps: Identify, Investigate, Treat, Replace, and Follow-up. The type of overall treatment could be similar to some forms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) where the goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavior.

Cite this paper

Teens and the Internet: Social Media Addiction. (2021, Feb 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/teens-and-the-internet-social-media-addiction/



How does social media contribute to Internet addiction?
Social media contributes to Internet addiction by providing an endless stream of content, notifications, and social validation that can be difficult to resist. The constant need to check and engage with social media platforms can lead to a loss of productivity, social isolation, and other negative consequences.
What does social media addiction do to teens?
Social media addiction can lead to teens feeling isolated and lonely, as well as increase anxiety and depression.
What is the level of social media addiction among the youth?
There is no definitive answer to this question as it varies greatly from person to person. However, it is safe to say that social media addiction is a very real and growing problem among young people.
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