Link Discovered Between Teen Internet Addiction and Violent Behavior

Link Discovered Between Teen Internet Addiction and Violent Behavior

Teenagers who are preoccupied with the Internet may be more prone to aggressive behavior, new research finds. In a study of more than 9,400 Taiwanese teenagers, those with signs of Internet addiction were more likely to say they had hit, shoved, or threatened someone in the past year.

The link remained after the investigators accounted for several other factors, including the teens’ scores on measures of self-esteem and depression, as well as their exposure to violence on television.

The findings do not prove the Internet addiction breeds violent behavior in children; instead, it suggests that violence-prone teenagers are more likely to obsessively use the Internet, explained lead researcher Dr. Chih-Hung Ko, of Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan.

However, the study does add to evidence from previous studies that media—TV, movies, or video games—can influence children’s behavior. Ko told Reuters Health that parents should pay close attention to their teenagers’ Internet use and the potential effects on their real-life behavior.

Some signs of Internet addiction include preoccupation with online activities, withdrawal symptoms such as moodiness and irritability after a few Internet-free days, and missing other activities to devote more time to the computer.

In this study, teenagers who fit the addiction profile were more prone to aggression than their peers, but the type of Internet activity seemed to matter as well. Online chatting, gambling, gaming, and spending time in online forums or adult pornography sites were all linked to aggressive behavior. Teens who spent their time doing online research or studying, on the other hand, were less likely to be prone to violence.

According to Ko, certain online activities may encourage kids to “release their anger” or otherwise be aggressive in ways they normally would not in the real world. Whether this eventually pushes them to be more aggressive in real life is not yet clear, the researcher said.

Ko recommends that parents talk to their children about their Internet use and their general attitudes toward violence.

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