Researchers are still not certain whether unhealthy Internet use leads to depression or whether it’s the other way around.
A new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine suggests that teens who use the Internet obsessively are much more likely to suffer depression. But experts are still unsure which comes first — depression or Internet addiction.
We’re analyzing coverage of the study from The Daily Telegraph, KYW-TV, Time and MSNBC.
Researchers looked at more than a thousand teenagers, none of whom suffered depression at the beginning of the study. The Daily Telegraph explains the make up of the teens under study and how scientists characterize obsessive Internet use: “Just over 6 percent of the teenagers were found to be pathological users of the Internet, because they said they felt depressed, moody or nervous when not on the Internet, but this disappeared when they were back online.”
After nine months, researchers found that these teens were two and a half times more likely to be depressed. On Philadelphia’s KYW-TV, Pediatrician Robert Bonner explains how obsessive Web use can affect teens: “They were depressed much like somebody who is addicted to drugs or alcohol. The use of the Internet is much like an addiction. 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.”
But not all experts agree that depression is caused by too much time on the Web. TIME Magazine speculates that some users might become addicted to the Internet because they are already depressed: “It could also be, as past studies have found, that people whose Internet use reaches pathological levels are somehow already predisposed to depression… and that they turn to spending time online when they are unhappy.”
Regardless of which health problem leads to the other, experts encourage parents to keep an eye on how much time teens spend in isolation on the Internet, watching TV or playing video games. Pediatric psychologist Margaret Richards shares advice for parents on MSNBC: “They really need to make sure that they’re still involved in other activities, like sports or clubs or going out with their friends so that they’re still getting that social interaction.”
So what do you think? Are teens really spending too much time on the Internet? Or does this study focus too much on a small number of teens who are truly addicted to the Web?
WRITER: Jessica Stephens
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