February 24, 2009

Internet Addiction In Teens Might Cause Aggression

Researchers reported on Monday, teenagers who are preoccupied with their Internet time might be more prone to aggressive behavior.

Over 9,400 Taiwanese teenagers were studied, and the researchers found that those with signs of Internet "addiction" were more likely to say they had hit, shoved or threatened someone in the past year.

Several other factors were accounted by the investigators, including the teenagers' scores on measures of self-esteem and depression, as well as their exposure to TV violence.

These findings do not prove that Internet addiction breeds violent behavior in children, according to the study.

Lead researcher Dr. Chih-Hung Ko, of Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan, explained that it is possible that violence-prone teenagers are more likely to obsessively use the Internet.

But the findings add to evidence from other studies that media can influence children's behavior.  Also suggested is that parents should pay attention to their teenagers' Internet use, and the potential effects on their real-life behavior, Ko told Reuters Health.

Some signs of Internet addiction include preoccupation with online activities.  Withdrawal symptoms, like moodiness and irritability after a few Internet-free days, as well as skipping other activities to devote more time to online, are other symptoms of Internet addiction, according to Ko's team.

Teenagers who fit the addiction profile in this study, generally were more aggression-prone than their peers.  However, the type of Internet activity appeared to matter as well.

Aggressive behavior was linked to online chatting, gambling and gaming, and spending time in online forums or adult pornography sites.  Teens who devoted their time to online research and studying were less likely than their peers to be violence-prone.

Certain online activities might encourage kids to "release their anger" or otherwise be aggressive in ways they normally would not in the real world, according to Ko.  Whether or not this eventually pushes them to be more aggressive is still not clear, the researcher said.

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


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