By Lily Anderson
Staff Writer for Wake Up World
In an era dominated by digital connectivity, where smartphones have become an extension of our hands, it’s no surprise that the average person spends a significant portion of their day online. Recent research from the University of Surrey has shed light on the extent of our digital entanglement, revealing that young people aged 24 and under spend a staggering six hours a day on the internet, primarily through their smartphones. Older age groups, those aged 24 and above, are not far behind, devoting 4.6 hours to their online lives.
This eye-opening study, which involved 796 participants, goes beyond just the hours spent online. It introduces a new internet addiction spectrum, categorizing internet users into five distinct groups, each with its own characteristics and behaviors.
The Five Faces of Internet Use
1. Casual Users (14.86%)
- Average Age: 33.4 years
- This group mainly goes online for specific tasks and logs off without lingering. They show no signs of addiction and are generally older.
2. Initial Users (22.86%)
- Average Age: 26.1 years
- These individuals often find themselves online longer than they initially planned and are somewhat neglectful of household chores but don’t consider themselves addicted.
3. Experimenters (21.98%)
- Average Age: Between 22.8 and 24.3 years
- This group feels uneasy or anxious when not connected to the internet. Once they go online, they feel better. Experimenters are more willing to try out new apps and technology.
4. Addicts-in-Denial (17.96%)
- These users display addictive behaviors like forming new relationships online and neglecting real-world responsibilities to be online. However, they won’t admit to feeling uneasy when they’re not connected.
5. Addicts (22.36%)
- This group openly acknowledges their internet addiction and recognizes its negative impact on their lives. They are the most confident in using new apps and technology.
These categories offer valuable insights into the diverse ways people interact with the digital realm, highlighting the varying degrees of addiction and dependence on the internet.
Age and Internet Addiction
One striking finding from this research is the strong correlation between age and internet addiction. Dr. Brigitte Stangl, the lead author of the study, notes, “The younger you are, the more likely you are to be addicted to the internet, and this tendency decreases with age.” This highlights the need for age-specific interventions and support to address this growing issue among the younger generation.
Gender and Online Behavior
Surprisingly, the study found no significant link between gender and online behavior. Internet addiction is a concern that transcends gender boundaries, affecting both men and women equally.
Confidence in Technology and Addiction
Another noteworthy discovery is that higher levels of addiction correlate with more confidence in using mobile technology, particularly a greater willingness to try out new apps. This raises questions about the role of technology companies in facilitating addictive behaviors and the need for responsible tech usage.
Emotional Experiences and Augmented Reality
The research also explored the impact of internet addiction on users’ experiences with new, high-tech applications like augmented reality (AR). It found that emotional experiences, the feelings users have while using an app, strongly predict future behavior for all groups when interacting with augmented reality. This suggests that emotions play a crucial role in shaping our relationship with technology.
Tailored Interventions and Support
Dr. Stangl underscores the need for tailored interventions and support for individuals at various stages of internet addiction. As our digital landscape continues to evolve with the emergence of technologies like augmented reality, it’s crucial to develop digital services and applications that cater to the diverse needs of users.
Practical Tips: Reducing Online Time
Now that we understand the different facets of internet addiction, it’s essential to take steps to reduce excessive online time and establish a healthier relationship with technology:
1. Set Time Limits
- Use smartphone features or third-party apps to set daily limits for specific apps or online activities.
2. Create Tech-Free Zones
- Designate certain areas, like the bedroom or dining table, as tech-free zones to encourage offline interactions.
3. Plan Offline Activities
- Schedule regular offline activities and hobbies to break the cycle of constant online engagement.
4. Practice Mindfulness
- Engage in mindfulness exercises to become more aware of your online habits and triggers.
5. Seek Support
- If you or someone you know is struggling with internet addiction, consider seeking professional support or counseling.
In conclusion, the University of Surrey’s research on internet addiction provides a crucial understanding of how digital dependence varies among individuals. By recognizing the different stages of internet addiction and taking practical steps to reduce online time, we can regain control of our digital lives and find a healthier balance between the virtual and real worlds.
- Brigitte Stangl, Margit Kastner, Sangwon Park, Dandison Ukpabi. Internet addiction continuum and its moderating effect on augmented reality application experiences: digital natives versus older users. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 2023; 40 (1): 38 DOI: 10.1080/10548408.2023.2199776
About the author:
Lily Anderson is a passionate wordsmith and dedicated explorer of cutting-edge scientific inquiries. Fuelled by a thirst for knowledge, she skilfully transforms intricate ideas into relatable tales, inviting readers to embark on a captivating expedition of revelation. Lily’s efforts play a crucial role in bridging the gap between experts and the wider public, evoking a sense of awe and encouraging insightful discussions about groundbreaking scientific advancements.