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Internet addiction affects development, behavior of teens – Study

London, Jun 4 (Prensa Latina) A new study by researchers at University College London (UCL) showed that adolescents with an Internet addiction undergo changes in the brain that could lead to additional addictive behavior, PLOS Mental Health reported.

Internet addiction has been defined as a person’s inability to resist the urge to use the internet, negatively impacting their psychological well-being, as well as their social, academic and professional lives. The findings, published in PLOS Mental Health, reviewed 12 articles involving 237 young people aged 10–19 with a formal diagnosis of internet addiction between 2013 and 2023.

The studies used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to inspect the functional connectivity (how regions of the brain interact with each other) of participants with internet addiction, both while resting and completing a task.

The effects of internet addiction were seen throughout multiple neural networks in the brains of adolescents. There was a mixture of increased and decreased activity in the parts of the brain that are activated when resting (the default mode network).

Meanwhile, there was an overall decrease in the functional connectivity in the parts of the brain involved in active thinking (the executive control network).

These changes were found to lead to addictive behaviors and tendencies in adolescents, as well as behavior changes associated with intellectual ability, physical coordination, mental health and development.

“The findings from our study show that this can lead to potentially negative behavioral and developmental changes that could impact the lives of adolescents. For example, they may struggle to maintain relationships and social activities, lie about online activity and experience irregular eating and disrupted sleep”, lead author, MSc student, Max Chang (UCL Great Ormond Street Institute for Child Health) said.

Previous research has shown that people in the UK spend over 24 hours every week online and, of those surveyed, more than half self-reported being addicted to the internet.

Meanwhile, Ofcom found that of the 50 million internet users in the UK, over 60% said their internet usage had a negative effect on their lives—such as being late or neglecting chores.

“We would advise that young people enforce sensible time limits for their daily internet usage and ensure that they are aware of the psychological and social implications of spending too much time online.”