Pathological Internet Use Linked to Depression in Teens, Study Shows

Filed under: In The News, Behavior: Teens, Social & Emotional Growth: Teens, Development: Teens, Research Reveals: Tweens, Behavior: Tweens, Social & Emotional Growth: Tweens, Development: Tweens, Teen Culture, Gadgets, Media, Research Reveals: Teens

Your child's depression might be linked to his Internet use. Credit: Corbis

Your teenager seems moody and depressed? Showing all the signs of addiction? Before you go ordering that tox screen, you might want to consider another culprit: the Internet.

Teens whose Internet use is uncontrolled or unreasonable -- deemed "pathological" -- are more likely to become depressed than those whose use is more moderate, a new study indicates.

Pathological use of the Internet has long been associated with the behaviors and symptoms of addiction, including relationship problems, ill health and aggression, the study, to be published in an upcoming issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, says.

Researchers from Australia and China looked at more than 1,000 teens in China who had an average age of 15. The kids were screened for depression and completed a questionnaire to help the researchers identify pathological Internet use and identify typical addiction behaviors and feelings, such as nervousness when off-line that disappears once back online.

When initially assessed, 6.2 percent of the teens were found to be moderately pathological in their Internet use, and 0.2 percent were severely so. When they were reassessed nine months later for anxiety and depression, 0.2 percent had "significant anxiety symptoms," according to the article, and 8.4 percent were depressed -- and the occurrence of depression was two-and-a-half times higher in those who used the Internet pathologically.

The researchers found no relationship between pathological Internet use and anxiety.

"This result suggests that young people who are initially free of mental health problems but use the Internet pathologically could develop depression as a consequence," the authors write.

They recommend that schools screen for kids who are pathological in their Internet use and provide them counseling and treatment.

Related: New Program to Teach Parents Internet Safety

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.