Myth: Teens Addicted to the Internet


Let’s see: First, there was pool. Then comic books. Then pinball machines. Then violent TV shows. Then violent video games. Then violent web pages. And now, well, it’s sometimes hard not to fall in with the legions of detractors who see signs of “Internet addiction” wherever they look. But it seems there was one place nobody had bothered to look very hard: The scientific research on the subject.

Investigators from the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and from the University of Washington went digging through the medical literature, searching for all the reputable studies available on the subject of problematic Internet use. Then they subjected all of those studies to rigorous methodological scrutiny, and concluded that… they really couldn't conclude much of anything at all.

If Internet addiction exists, you certainly couldn’t prove it on the basis of existing scientific research, anyway. In the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, the researchers concluded, somewhat anticlimactically: “The evaluation of problematic Internet use remains incomplete and is hampered by methodological inconsistencies…. Despite the newness of this area of study, most studies in our review were published more than 3 years ago.”

Out of 600 possible studies, the researchers had to throw out all but 18 of the articles due to low quality reports, low response rates, and missing data. At this point, it appears that Internet addiction remains more folklore than fact.


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