In recent years, the Internet has gone from just another tool that exists somewhere to the basis for all the other tools in life. It's hard to imagine a day without it, and most of us are in it almost non-stop. But what is considered smart use of the network and when does it become an addiction? A new study by the University of Surrey in the UK, led by Dr. Brigitte Stangl, tried to find the dividing lines. We used ChatGPT to draw our conclusions.
The researchers tested a sample of 796 participants to understand their online habits and introduce a new concept—the Internet addiction spectrum. The striking finding is that young people, aged 24 and under, spend an average of six hours a day online. This digital dedication benefits mainly through smartphones. In contrast, those aged 25 and over surf about 4.6 hours a day.
The researchers created a five-layer Internet addiction spectrum:
Casual users (14.86% of participants):
Enter specific tasks and then exit the virtual world. Their average age is 33.4, and they're not keen on trying new apps.
First-time users (22.86% of respondents):
delay longer than planned, and even tend to neglect household chores, but are unwilling to admit to addiction. Moderately interested in exploring new apps, with an average age of 26.1.
Addicts in denial (17.96%): These
users exhibit addictive behaviors, such as neglecting real-world tasks and connections in favor of those in the virtual world, but are unwilling to admit not only that they are addicted, but even the symptoms they experience when they are not connected. Feel quite confident in using new technologies.
Experimenters (21.98%): This
group feels anguish and real discomfort when disconnected from the network, and feels physical relief from reconnecting. Experimenters are eager to test new applications and technologies.Their age range ranges mainly from 22.8 to 24.3.
The most honest of the bunch, openly acknowledge their Internet addiction. They recognize its harmful impact on their lives, but they also possess the richest technological knowledge, allowing them to take advantage of technologies extensively, even if most of their time is wasted on less efficient uses.
Further conclusions of the study showed that age plays a major role in internet addiction, with younger people connecting at an earlier age succumbing more easily to temptation. In contrast, there was no discernible relationship between gender and online behavior. In addition, it seems that the correlation between heavy addicts and the use of more advanced technologies may come not from the fact that more use allows more learning of ways to exploit technologies, but precisely the opposite: from the fact that more advanced technologies may develop a higher dependency, compared to simple browsing of sites that is not so addictive.
Dr. Stangl emphasized the need for engagement and support for people at different stages of internet addiction, adding that the findings will influence the design and development of digital services to meet the diverse needs of different types of users.
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