Report: Excessive Internet Use Among Children Due to Psychological Problems
Spending considerable time online does not necessarily mean that the child has a problem related to internet use. This is one of the primary findings in the report investigating excessive internet use among European children in the age group 11 to 16, which was prepared with the involvement of researchers from the University of Tartu. The research results show that in general children manage well in the internet. The risk of excessive internet use and its negative consequences is higher in late teens and among children with psychological problems.
The EU Kids Online survey investigated how frequently children aged 11–16 noticed in their behaviour signs of excessive internet use, such as undone homework because of too much time spent online, too little time spent in the company of family and friends, or futile attempts to limit one’s internet surfing. The symptom admitted by the most children (42% of European children) was that the they had caught themselves surfing when they were not really interested. Significantly fewer respondents (17%) admitted that they had gone without eating and sleeping because of the internet.
Pathologically excessive internet use is a risk with 1% of European children. According to EU Kids Online, one child out of every hundred experiences all five signs of excessive internet use measured in the survey. Children who admit to experiencing several symptoms of excessive internet use also tend to report psychological and emotional problems.
In terms of excessive internet use, Estonian children hold the leading position among European children – 49% have noted in their behaviour at least one of the signs of excessive internet use. The corresponding figure in Italy is 17% and the European average is 28%. Nevertheless, the survey did not include any children in Estonia who admitted to experiencing all five signs.
UT Professor of Media Studies Veronika Kalmus explains the situation as follows: ‘The primary contributors to the leading position of Estonian children in this survey were the thirty percent who admitted to surfing on the net even when they were not interested in it. This can be interpreted as a lack of alternative activities or interests. At the same time, every fifth child in Estonia has tried—unsuccessfully—to limit the time he or she spends online.’
To prevent excessive internet use, EU Kids Online recommends that parents take an active interest in their children’s online activities through support and discussion. Parents’ support in limiting excessive internet use of their children is particularly beneficial in cases where the child has experienced something unpleasant in the internet.
To read the full report ‘Excessive Internet Use Among European Children’ (by David Smahel, Ellen Helsper, Lelia Green, Veronika Kalmus, Lukas Blinka and Kjartan Ólafsson), direct your browser to the website of EU Kids Online:
Additional information: Veronika Kalmus, Professor of Media Studies of the University of Tartu, telephone: (+372) 56 623 583, e-mail: veronika.kalmus [ät] ut.ee