Cyber dependency – an increasing threat for adolescents and young adults

July 19th, 2019 |

A recent study shows that about 2% of the population suffers from cyber addiction. While most people spend about 25 hours per week on the internet, teenagers who suffer from cyber addiction can spend between 40 to 60 hours plugged in.

Although there are many positive experiences available on the internet, including immediate access to information, there are also negative impacts of widespread use including social isolation, lack of exercise, an overall sedentary lifestyle, and cyber addiction. The “cyber” term relates to the different possible uses of the Internet. The concepts of addiction and dependence are often used synonymously.

Cyber addiction or Internet addiction disorder (IAD) also known as problematic internet use or pathological internet use is generally defined as problematic, compulsive use of the internet, which results in significant impairment in an individual’s function in various life domains over a prolonged period of time. This and other relationships between digital media use and mental health have been under considerable research, debate and discussion amongst experts in several disciplines, and have generated controversy from the medical, scientific and technological communities. Such disorders can be diagnosed when an individual engages in online activities at the cost of fulfilling daily responsibilities or pursuing other interests, and without regard for the negative consequences.

As adolescents and emerging adults access the Internet more than any other age group and undertake a higher risk of overuse of the Internet, the problem of Internet addiction disorder is most relevant to young people.

We consider cyber dependence to be present when a person has two types of symptoms. The first is irritability or nervousness when the behaviour (playing or substance use) is stopped. These are known as withdrawal symptoms. The second symptom is tolerance, or the need to increase the behaviour in order to gain satisfaction. We consider addiction to be present when we find elements of compulsion (repeating behaviour in order to escape negative feelings) and impulsiveness (loss of control over playing, negative consequences, etc.), in addition to withdrawal and tolerance symptoms.

There are some risk factors which may contribute to cyber addiction:

  • Insecurity in relationships
  • Social isolation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty in managing and expressing emotionsetc

If an adolescent is showing signs of digital dependence, it is essential to communicate with them and maintain a connection. Supervise the use of the internet through parental controls; ask for help if you think that you are not able to support your child on your own and become computer savvy yourself.