Internet addiction in college students may hamper family ties: New study

NEW YORK: College students may experience increased family conflict and disconnectedness when family members are all together, according to new research.
The study is the first to show how college students in US diagnosed with Problematic Internet Use (PIU) perceive its role in their families. A researchers from Georgia State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted a qualitative study of 27 US university students who self-identified as problematic internet users.

“We wanted to better understand students with Problematic Internet Use – those who reported spending more than 25 hours a week on the internet on non-school or non-work-related activities, and who experienced internet-associated health or psychosocial problems,” said Susan Snyder of Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. “Specifically, we wanted to understand how the internet affects students’ family relationships positively and negatively,” Snyder said.
On the plus side, these students reported their time on the internet often improved family connectedness when they and their family were apart. However, their excessive internet use led to increased family conflict and disconnectedness when family members were all together, the researchers said.
Most students with PIU felt their families also overused the internet, with parents not setting enough limits for either parent or sibling internet use. Young adults are at an especially high risk for behavioural addictions, researchers said, and PIU is considered a behavioural addiction with characteristics similar to substance abuse disorders. PIU has been linked with negative mental health consequences such as depression, hostility, attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder, social phobia, alcohol abuse, self-injuries and sleep difficulties.
College students may be especially vulnerable to developing PIU for reasons that include free internet access, large blocks of free time, courses that require its use and the sudden freedom from parental control and monitoring.

The study was published in the journal PLoS ONE.