Social Networking and Internet Addiction

Pathological Internet Use: Does Social Networking Sites do more harm than good?

What is the impact of pathological internet use on adolescents? Be honest with yourself, how many times have you checked your phone within the last hour? Have you ever felt as if you were missing out on social activities while looking at friend’s social media accounts, maybe just a bit envious? Although, not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Internet addiction has been recognized by the American Psychological Association as a growing concern (Gale). According, to the Gale Encyclopedia, Internet addiction disorder (IAD) refers to the problematic use of the Internet, including the various aspects of its technology, such as electronic mail and the World Wide Web. Taking that into consideration, IAD encompass online gaming, Internet pornography, online shopping, email and texting, social media which covers social networking sites and blogging. The Internet is widely used on a daily basic to perform various task. As it relates to addiction, the risk lies in the inability to perform ones assigned task, completing their required duties and responsibilities without interference with deviation. Social networking is a type of social media because it allows it users to engage with each other. The risk on adolescents is of growing concerns and one that involves continuous research to combat this problem and identifying the associated symptoms. In American, between 8% and 12% of children and adolescents have IAD and this is a growing number (Gale). Children are the future of tomorrow, if they are growing to be addicts what kind of world will we be living in?

The internet and social networks have helped in various aspects of life, providing an avenue for global connections, improve education through distance learning, entertainment, self-expression and keep up to date with news. According to a 2018 Pew Research survey, 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, a 22 % increase from 2014-2015 survey. The most popular SNS among teens are YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat accounting for 85%, 72% and 69% respectively of whom are actively engaged on these platforms. According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, IAD users display the same symptoms of a substance abuser, such as; depression, stress, eating disorders and anxiety. The internet and social networking websites are made to be addictive, this is how the companies make their money, from people scrolling endlessly for hours and venturing into other addictive behaviors such as online gambling. Gone are the days where children would visit the library to read a book, play outside with friends. Instead it is trying to catch PokГ©mon, which has led to several deaths from addicts who ventured out to play at odd hours and risky places. The addiction is not from the frequency it is being used, but the inability to separate real and virtual life to the point it begins to affect their daily life.

Social networking addition can stem from a feeling of neglect, self-esteem issues, busy parents who leave their children to occupy their time as they see fit, and the need to be informed, adolescents are inquisitive by nature. The period of adolescence is time of transition into adulthood and self-identity, parents must ensure they are aware of the content being viewed by their children. According to Dr. Jefferey Cain Professor and Director at the University of Kentucky College, student’s health and wellness has become a focus considering a combination of smartphones and social media use has negatively affected their wellbeing. Excessive use of SNS can lead to health and physical conditions, self- esteem concerns as it regards to what the virtual world considers the ideal body type, education and interpersonal relationship from begin digitally dependent on the internet.

45% of teens are say they are online almost constantly (Pew Research), that does not leave much time for studying and recreational activities. Unfortunately, they are oblivious to the potential health risks they are likely to experience; such as, fatigue from lack of sleep, which is likely to affect their overall judgement and decision-making capabilities in and outside classes. Carpal tunnel syndrome and smartphone thumb can be developed from the constant scrolling and typing. Some persons are likely to experience back and neck pains from being bent over to use the phone or being on the monitor for long periods, which in turn can affect their posture. Another health concern is that of potentially straining the eyes, this can cause headaches and blurred vision. Sedentary lifestyle becomes a norm as person spend more time sitting on their phones, neglecting physical activities. In general, tv shows eventually end, but the internet is always present, parents and schools should promote non-device time to address this issue.

We see the rise in cyberbullies, people who sit behind these screens and are abusive in their words, sometimes attacking classmates and posting inappropriate pictures of them. Social networks have given them a voice to behave in such despicable manner. Many times, the affected teen refuses to go to school and in extreme cases commit suicide A common thing for cyberbullies is to body shame their targets, many of whom are already body conscious and struggles with self-esteem issues.

Without a doubt, beyond cyberbullies being constantly connected has impacted the confidence levels in both genders. The challenge today is the portrayal of what the ideal body should look like, in most cases it is that of a thinner looking woman or more muscular man. The fit movement is there to promote health and wellness, yet many times it is internalized differently. It is not uncommon for teens to become anorexic or bulimic to avoid weight gain and are bullied if they do not confirm to the societal images being displayed. According to renowned Sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, “body dissatisfaction is one of the most consistent and robust factors for developing an eating disorder.” Which is associated with low-self-esteem from the constant comparison of what is seen online. Contrary to popular believe men also struggle with accepting their bodies. Social media can be linked to the increase in depression amongst individuals who are constantly comparing themselves to those “thinner” images they see online. The constant exposure to such images gives the false impression thin is globally attractive. However, in other countries being “thick” is seen as the ideal weight. The term “Facebook Depression” and “Facebook Envy” has become popular when speaking of adolescences who are consumed by what they see on social networks to the point of depression, and the consistent social comparison resulting in jealously. Fitness leaders should promote healthier weight loss methods, highlight the importance of self-acceptance towards weight loss. They should use their platform to educate and remove the stereotype that a person must be thin to be fit. There are so many photoshopped images on the internet, there is fine line between what is real and what is not. Consider sharing their information without posing as if they are a part of a beauty contest. Most importantly, promote that individuals spend less time scrolling through the internet looking for reasons to accept their body; everyone is different, and they should be comfortable in their own.

Education is another major risk, as students become more reliant on technology and their inability to practice proper time management is of concern. The impact is in seen in their inability to fulfill their educational requirements due to illness from becoming addicts, sleep deprivation from constantly being online, which increases the unlikelihood of retention when the brain is tired. Another challenge is less assignments being completed on time or not all, this over time can lead to depression and students being removed from classes or further disciplinary actions being taken. 87% of educators’ stay student’s attention span have lowered (Quillen) from constantly being online. Students are unable to identify proper resources in some instance unbiased information, considering persons still believe Wikipedia is the most credible website for information, this is having concern. Students are seen to have challenges doing proper research, writing and communicating effectively, as social networking is the way of memes and abbreviation; such as, laugh out loud (LOL), be right back (BRB) and dead with laugh (DWL). This informal language is sometimes transferred into formal writing due to the frequency in which it is used and that is bad from an educational standpoint. Expanded research methods should be incorporate in assignments that goes beyond the use of internet.

Although the internet and social networking sites have facilitated easier connection between friends and family, and closing the cultural gap, it true that these sites have also created students who are lonely and social awkward, embracing more virtual relationships than face to face communication. It stifles their growth, the closer we get the further apart we truly are becoming. The inability to read facial cues, body expression to understand how a person truly feels, and how to behave in different settings are risk factors According to Sue Scheff, author and founder of the Parent’s Universal Resource Experts, the lure of the web and social networks gives the impression it is okay to substitute the internet and social networks for real life. Internet addiction does less good for teens who struggle socially, as they remain hidden behind their screens and grow to become even more socially awkward. People only share what they deem is appropriate and is favorable on social networks.

The amount of time on smartphones have increased while drugs and alcohol use among millennials have gone down, suggesting smartphones are a new addition, and the gateway to social networks. Studies also show similar brain activity in internet addition to that of substance addition (Cain). Persons who are more conscious of its impact have started disconnecting giving themselves giving time away from social networks and reconnecting with their “real life.” More can be done to educate teens and provide recommendations on doing this to ensure they have a balanced life. Earlier this year, Facebook and Instagram introduced the time limit tool, for persons to see and set how much time they spend on the platform. This would be a great addition across all social networks in hopes of alerting users it is time to step away from their device, developers can go a step further and incorporate suggestions and pop up reminders; such as, take a walk, did you complete your chores, do you have homework to remind users not to neglect their responsibilities.

Based on my research, both the internet and social networking sites provides a multitude of benefits, but it is not okay to overlook the growing concerns associated with them. There is enough data detailing the effects for researchers to continue studying and identify ways in which this can be prevented and treated efficiently also, identifying the subtle symptoms. However, because people see technology and the internet as progression and necessary, they are doubtful in admitting the issues it presents. To further combat this growing concern schools should modify their curriculum to include digital literacy (Quilles), educate students on the risks of being an addict and learning proper time management skills. Parents should make every effort to be involved and present in their children’s life, knowing the content they are feeding their brains and to ensure their privacy remains intact to avoid cyber criminals attacking their children. For effectiveness this needs to be a community effort, each one help one.

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