We often hear about withdrawal symptoms in the context of alcohol or drug abuse. Withdrawal occurs when an individual abruptly stops using a substance that their body has become accommodated to and thinks it needs. Withdrawal symptoms of alcohol or drug use can include:
- Anxiety or jumpiness
- Shaking or tremors
- Excessive sweating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sleep or appetite disturbance
Preliminary research suggests that heavy Internet users are susceptible to the same emotional withdrawal symptoms that drug users experience.
In 2013,researchers conducted a study enlisting 60 adults with an average age of 25, using several psychological batteries. The participants completed various psychological tests, including assessments of Internet use. After the tests, participants were permitted to use the Internet for 15 minutes in whatever way they chose. Immediately following the 15 minutes, additional psychological tests were administered to assess participants’ moods and level of anxiety. The study found that heavy Internet users had a pronounced decrease in mood after using the Internet for only 15 minutes. The researchers hypothesized that the decrease in mood may lead to increased seeking of Internet use to elevate mood. Findings showed that this occurred only in heavy users of the Internet or those who might be labeled as addicted.
This study is likely only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how technology overuse can negatively impact our emotional well-being. Heavy Internet users are susceptible to becoming dependent on the thrill of Internet use, which prompts them to use the Internet even more. While the average age of the study’s participants was 25, we are now seeing children younger and younger who are constantly using technology to play games and surf the Internet for entertainment.
Are we raising a generation of technology addicted children? This study reinforces my belief that parents need to set stricter guidelines and limits on how much technology time their children are permitted daily and weekly. While most parents are accustomed to having conversations about the dangers of alcohol and drugs, we must now include conversations about the dangers of overusing technology.