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What parents and teachers always knew is now confirmed by medical research: the continuous chatting, posting and “likes” become children and young people in addiction.
One of the German health insurance funds, the DAK, together with the University Hospital of Hamburg, carried out a medical study in which 1001 children, young people and young women between 12 and 17 years old participated. The researchers then extrapolated the results to the whole of Germany, explained the president of the DAK, Andreas Storm, during the presentation of the study, in Berlin. “The results are alarming.” 2.6 percent of adolescents have an addiction to social networks, the consequences are, according to researchers, not only lack of sleep, but also denial of reality and conflicts with the parents.
What is addiction to social networks?
Among the criteria for evaluating the dependence on social networks such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook or Twitter, researchers from the German Center for the Study of Addictions mention, among children and adolescents, the fact of continuously thinking about those platforms or messaging services in school, as well as withdrawal symptoms, such as irritation, nervousness and sadness if the mobile phone or other devices are not close to them.
As “loss of control” scientists describe the fact that adolescents are unable to limit themselves the time they spend interacting on social networks.
Scientists also report that teenagers’ behavior changes: they lose interest in hobbies, they lie about the time they spend using social media and risk losing friendships, having bad grades in school and even possibilities to advance in a career to be more online time
Loss of time and school performance
The vast majority of adolescents (85 percent) spend, according to the DAK study, about three hours per day on social networks. Girls and young women, with 182 minutes, spend more time in them than men (151 minutes)
Schoolchildren who are about to finish high school spend less time online (149 minutes) than teenagers with a lower-level school diploma, such as the “Realschule” (middle school whose degree does not qualify to enter university, but to a tertiary career), which spend about 207 minutes on the networks.The most used social networks are WhatsApp (66 percent), Instagram (14 percent), Snapchat (9 percent) and Facebook (2 percent).
Due to the large amount of time that adolescents spend on social networks, six percent of respondents said they have conflicts with parents. Sixteen percent said their behavior provokes arguments with the parents for that. The younger the respondents, the more fights occur. Therefore, 14 percent of children and teenagers aged 12 and 13 use social networks often without parents knowing.
Lack of sleep and psychic problems
About one in five adolescents between 12 and 17 admitted to sleeping very little at times for continuing to interact on social networks during the night (17 percent). Six percent said that happened very often. The older the respondents, the more time they spend without sleeping to use those means.
Among all the adolescents surveyed, 8 percent show signs of depression tendencies. What also caught the attention of scientists is that one in three affected by a depressed mood also makes a problematic use of social networks.
What can parents, guardians or managers do to counteract the negative effects of excessive use of these platforms? According to Andreas Storm, the decisive thing is to dose the interaction in the real world and in the virtual world. The virtual world should not be more important than the real world for young people. It is also advisable to pause when using networks. According to the president of the DAK, the influence of parents and the school is important for children and adolescents to learn to have a healthy management of these platforms and know not only their benefits, but also be aware of the risks that they entail.
According to the DAK, it is the first time that a representative study is carried out in Germany on the risk of addiction that social networks have.