Now a study finds that internet addiction is leaving some students feeling burnt out at school, which causes them to spend more time on the internet, creating a cycle that can leave teens feeling depressed.
Researchers at the Academy of Finland questioned more than 3,000 middle and high school students in Helsinki about their internet and school habits. Their study, published in May in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, found that “school burnout predicted later excessive internet use and excessive internet use predicted later school burnout.”
The connection between the two factors wasn’t totally clear cut. Teenage boys were much more likely to suffer from internet addiction, the study found, but it was girls who suffered more often from depressive systems later in adolescence.
Regardless, the study found that internet addiction was most likely to happen when kids lost interest in school. It’s certainly a problem many parents are facing. A poll released in early May by Common Sense Media found that 50 percent of teens “feel addicted” to their mobile devices — a big problem because 67 percent of teens have a smartphone and spend around 9 hours a day consuming digital media.
That has left some concerned adults, like physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston, pushing for parents to take a proactive approach to cutting down on their kids’ screen time. She recommends creating a healthy dialogue and boundaries around internet use.
“We’re often putting too much of a burden on kids to self-regulate, and that isn’t doing them any favors,” she told Forbes when her documentary, Screenagers, was showing in theaters in February.
According to the Academy of Finland study, the most critical time to address internet addiction and burnout is between the ages of 13 and 15, before it can lead to full-blown depression.