How many teens have "Internet addiction?"

Fri May 20, 2011 1:31am EDT
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NEW YORK May 20 (Reuters) - One in every 25 teens reported an "irresistible urge" to be on the Internet, tension when they weren't online, or said they had tried to quit or cut down on Internet time, according to a U.S. study.

In addition, the study of more than 3,500 high school students in the state of Connecticut found that those students with "problematic Internet use" were more likely than their peers to be depressed and aggressive, and to use drugs.

But study leader Timothy Liu, at Yale University, and his colleagues said they couldn't prove a "cause and effect" link between the Internet habits, depression and drug use.

"Problematic Internet use may be present in about 4 percent of high school students in the United States," they wrote in The Journal of Clinical Psychology.

"It may be associated with depression, substance use, and aggressive behaviors. High school boys, though, may have heavier Internet use and may be less self-aware of the related problems."

The study surveyed students at ten different high schools in Connecticut, asking more than 150 questions about health, risky behaviors, and impulsiveness -- including seven questions on Internet use.

Teens were asked to say if they had ever missed school or important social activities because they were surfing the Web, or if their family had expressed concern about their time online.

Specifically, three questions were used to determine if a student had "problematic Internet use." They asked students if they ever had an "irresistible urge" to be online, if they had experienced "a growing tension or anxiety that can be relieved only by using the Internet," or if they had tried to quit or cut down.

Out of 3,560 students, 4 percent met the criteria for problematic Internet use. Asian and Hispanic students were more likely to qualify, although the majority of students in the study were white.   Continued...

<p>Students use a multi-touch computer in a digital classroom presentation in Hanover March 1, 2010. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch</p>