By Dylan D’Arcy (Psychologist), Lakeside Psychology
The internet serves as a valuable tool to the lives of many and has been shown to expand social networks as well as aid in online communication, academic success and information gathering (Israelashvili, Kim, & Bukobza, 2012; Ko et al., 2014; Ko, Yen, Yen, Chen, & Chen, 2012; Subrahmanyam & Smahel, 2011). The growth in internet access devices, such as smart phones, tablet computers and watches, now gives individuals greater access to the internet than ever before. It is estimated that 78% of those from the developed world are utilising the internet on a regular basis so it clear that the internet has become integral to the lives of many across the world (Telecommunication Development Bureau, 2015). In Australia, 92% of us use the Internet in a 6-month period with 70% of us accessing the internet via smart phones (Telecommunication Development Bureau, 2015).
While the internet is in many ways extremely beneficial, researches have begun to identify many negative implications of excessive internet use. High levels of internet use have been found to be negatively associated with several wellbeing constructs such as daily life function, emotional stability, self-esteem, interpersonal relations and satisfaction with life (Milani, Osualdella, & Di, 2009; Ryu, Choi, Seo, & Nam, 2004).. Additionally, excessive Internet use is associated with a multitude of clinical presentations, including substance use, depression, social phobia, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD, Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalised Anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (Tonioni et al., 2012). These findings have lead researches to begin constructing diagnostic criteria for Internet Addiction (IA). Whilst this research is still in its early stages most researchers agree that IA is “an unhealthy pattern of internet use which is generally time-consuming and leads to significant impairment or distress and impacts daily functioning (Spada, 2014).
Tips to prevent and manage excessive internet use:
1. Put your phone away when in social situations.
This will encourage and facilitate social connectedness. Feeling socially connected is integral in emotional health and wellbeing.
2. Disable notification on your computer or smart phone device.
These notifications are utilised by Internet companies to increase your engagement and will result in more time spent online.
3. Put limits on your internet time:
Allocate an “online period” maybe 15-30 minutes a day where you allow yourself to become up to date with social media, emails, etc. You never know, during this Internet fast you may find more productive and fun things to do.
4. Save some money:
When in the workplace or out in public places cut your Wi-Fi. Who wants to pay huge mobile bills because they went over their data limit? A simple yet practical solution.
If you or someone you know are struggling with excessive internet use and feel as though you need help, speak with your GP or contact Lakeside Psychology on 5941 3575 for more information.