Adverse Blow of Internet Addiction on Student Lifestyle
Due to globalization, children are now becoming more and more attracted to electronic media and spending more of their time on social networking websites, video games, television shows and action movies. On one hand, the internet is a useful tool for communication and information, but on the other hand it indicates a future wherein our youth is adversely addicted to it. They spend increasingly more time on social media while neglecting the time for relationships, studies and family members. As a part of this youth, I have realized and want to clarify to the rest of you that, although we are increasing our communication around the globe, we are gradually compromising our personal and social relationships and mental health.
An urge for chemical substances or drugs is not the only possible addiction; if you engage excessively in a particular behavior multiple times, this may also be considered an addiction (Peeles et al, 1979). Repetitive behavior of gambling, overeating, watching TV, or even involving yourself in more physical activities comes under the category of addiction (lesieur HR et al, 1993). Similarly, internet addiction is a type of behavioral addiction wherein concerned persons use internet excessively and cannot pass a single minute without it, therefore producing symptoms in case of withdrawal, like alcohol withdrawal symptoms (Alavi et al, 2012).
Uncontrollable and excessive use of digital devices can lead to a condition of stress (Shaw M & Black DW, 2008). I personally have observed many people (mostly the youth) spending exorbitant amounts of time on social media without realizing how it cuts into their schedule and disturbs their sleep pattern. In some of them this manifests as lackluster academic performance. Whenever I spend more than five hours on the internet, I become exhausted and feel alone.
Current research has shown that among undergraduates in South Punjab University, Pakistan, 286 students among 1020 have internet addiction manifesting as loneliness (Muhammad Salem et al, 2015). Through cross-sectional study among medical colleges in Karachi, from 412 selected students, 74% were shown to be usual users, 24% excessive users, and 2% to have addiction. In addition, the addicted and excessive users had intensive fear of social relationships. Studying 300 students from the master class of the University of Sargodha, Pakistan, 2.7% were shown to have internet addiction along with anxiety. The male gender was more commonly associated with addiction than the female gender (Rashid et al, 2014). Research from the University of Hong Kong showed that, on a global scale, 6% of people are internet addicts from a total of 420 million (Victoria Kim, 2014).
In my opinion, this is most common in city residents as they have open access to internet, rather than in rural villages where knowledge about internet usage is lacking. As an example, my cousin in Peshawar, now 20 years old, has been addicted to his computer since childhood. In earlier years he was often attracted to video games, spending two or more hours daily. Gradually, the time duration kept increasing along with his demand for other electronic sources. His parents would also support him in every step. Because of this encouragement, he now spends an approximate ten hours on his computer everyday without any rest or sleep, has worse relations with his sisters, has adopted a very stubborn and aggressive attitude and built a school life with low academic performances and few friends.
To shield himself from criticisms by his sisters for his excessive use of internet, he also selected computer science as the subject of his career. He is able to hack any account within seconds. At times he spends enough time on the computer to even forget sleep. I link the abovementioned scenario with B.F. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning; if we reward any behavior or action, we are hence increasing the future possibilities of that behavior such that any activity that is rewarded can potentially lead to addiction (Tom Horvath et al, 2013).
There are different markers present in the identification of an internet addict; outside of obsession with the internet this also includes uncontrollable behavior, moodiness and flat sadness, misleading parents, crossing the horizons of normal behavior, internet-based relations, and loss of personal relations (Keum Seong, 2008).
In terms of social life—when a person spends excessive time on the internet, they naturally have less time for their personal relationships and friend circle. In fact, internet addiction may even hamper their participation in community events. A stronger attachment to the internet may compel the person to acquire more money, perhaps leading to online gambling. In the same vein, a loss in the game will lead to loss of money, mediating a possible financial crisis and ultimately affecting his family, children and other relationship (Morgan, 1999).
Hence, while we can communicate with people around the globe and gain more information through the internet, we do so at the risk of neglecting our relationships. Sometimes we become involved in different antisocial activities such as gambling, cyber bulling (40%), aggressive information exchanges (39.7%), dating, illegal downloading (57.4%) and hacking personal accounts.
I try to link this behavior with the six stages of the Kohlberg theory of moral development: in first stage, the child will follow the adult guideline in order to prevent punishment. In the second stage, he adopts the mentality of ‘if you harm me, l will also harm you.’ In the third stage, members within the same group will help each other rather than different groups. Fourth, they follow social laws and avoid antisocial behavior. In the fifth stage, they learn to respect other people’s rights and privacy (Hang Keung Ma, 2011). If one follows the fourth and fifth stages of the Kohlberg theory while using the internet, they are unlikely to develop any antisocial behavior.
In my opinion, in conjunction with physical health, mental health is also equally important because it is more vulnerable to external stressors. Certain factors can lead to addiction or consequences of addiction in terms of mental health, e.g. loneliness leads to internet addiction or may be a cause of internet addiction. This can be best explained by Albert Bendura’s triad model of determinants of social cognitive theory (Wulfert, 2005). Mainly, the internet enables us to access anything ordinarily out of reach, but sometimes its excessive use leads to negative behavior and consequences such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity, anxiety and loneliness (Wang et al, 2003).
Depression and ADHD are commonly related to internet addiction. Depression along with suicidal ideation is linked with addictive behavior (Anderson et al., 2000). Internet addiction, although considered a disorder, has not officially been placed under any disorder category as of yet. A cross-sectional study in an Iranian school among 1020 students discovered that 590 were internet users. Among these, 11% had depression and 25% had anxiety problems. Out of the ones playing computer games, 12% had anxiety and 5% had depression (Jamshid Ahmadi et al., 2014).
Furthermore, in the process of acquiring information through the internet, it sometimes creates abnormalities not only in our social and personal lives but also in our physiology in the form of neurobiological disturbances in our brain. It interferes with our working memory and decision-making ability. Through neuro-imaging, it has been observed that internal associated part of the brain comprises of the prefrontal cortex, and the temporal and subcortical divisions. Prefrontal cortex function was seen to be reduced in internet addicts, which explains their lesser decision-making ability (Matthias Brand et al., 2014).
It should be noted that psychology not only deals with abnormal behavior but also focuses on positive aspects with respect to both psychological and subjective well-being. Subjective well-being includes happiness, comfort, and relaxation, while psychological well-being comprises of personal growth and self-esteem. This can be elaborated in conjunction with the Maslow hierarchy of needs model (1940-1950); once a person fulfills their basic needs, he or she can go on to achieve self-actualization as part of their well-being (Saul McLeod, 2007). However, internet addiction directly and negatively affects this development.
A study in Sakarya University in Turkey proved that 47% out of a student body of 479 showed some characteristics of a negative psychological state associated with internet addiction, in addition to different psychological symptoms (Mehmet CARDAK, 2013). With increasing usage of internet media, children not only waste more time (Griffith, 2000) but also perform disappointingly at an academic level (Aboujaoude, 2010). Hence, we can deduce that internet addiction mitigates the effectiveness of coping mechanisms in an individual; if a person finds himself/herself in loneliness or grief, it is perhaps more effective to spend time with friends or family to gain satisfaction rather than spend more time on the internet as a means of temporary distraction.
In an era of widespread globalization, every individual uses internet as a basic need. While it is impractical to stop each individual from excessive usage, we can nonetheless change the behavior of the individual with the passage of time. Internet itself does not create disaster—rather, it depends on our behavior towards the internet. Are we simply using it for educational purposes or are we losing our identity to it? On an individual level, we can provide awareness to youth, children and family members about the risks associated with excessive use of internet. As parents, we can allocate a time-slot for each activity of our child in addition to involving them in extra activities such as playing, drawing, jogging, etc. It is imperative to provide an ideal model in ourselves for our children and to make strict rules about internet use for all members of the household, including ourselves.
The first intervention for internet addiction, proposed by Young in 2011, is cognitive behavioral therapy. By applying this therapy one can change their behavior as well as their cognitive function with respect to excessive use of internet. This can also be compounded by motivational therapy and counseling (Matthias Brand, 2014). Young in 1999 proposed seven plans to prevent excessive internet usage: 1. Make a new timetable. 2. Increase the burden of other activities on the user. 3. Increase social support. 4. Family-based therapy. 5. Personal control. 6. Introduce extra activities. 7. Set strict goals (Chien Chou et al, 2005).
At a national level, the government should ban any illegal or unethical websites within the country by way of a proper policy. Closer monitoring by parents and externally by the government should be focused on youths due to their higher vulnerability. These policies should be implemented within all places of primary internet access, including both homes and schools.
In conclusion, the internet manifests in society as a positive impact as well as negative. The negative blow encompasses addiction, which affects social life, creates psychological symptoms, wastes time, hampers academic performance, and mediates neurobiological changes. Proper intervention for internet addiction includes, first and foremost, cognitive behavioral therapy. It secondarily demands the provision of an ideal role model for your child, proper time management, goal setting, and social support. We, the youth, must begin the change from ourselves; we are the culprit, we are the change agent, and we can bring about the necessary change to move our behavior towards a more positive blow of globalization.
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