Telethon Kids Institute researchers find link between excessive internet use and mental health issues


Researchers have found a link between excessive internet use and psychological distress that includes suicidal thoughts in young people.
Researchers have found a link between excessive internet use and psychological distress that includes suicidal thoughts in young people.

The Perth-based medical research team used data from Young Minds Matter, one of the largest youth mental health survey in Australia.

Lead author Wayne Rikkers said 78,000, or 4 per cent, of children and adolescents experienced problematic internet or games-use behaviours.

”Our findings were similar to other research, which found associations with excessive internet use and psychological distress, depression, suicide ideation, self-harm, and alcohol abuse,” Ms Rikkers said.

However, she stressed it was unclear from the research whether the distress led to over-use of the internet or vice versa by 11 to 17 year olds.

“Nevertheless, the significance of the links is sufficient to warrant concern and further research,” she said.

Ms Rikkers said technology dominated all aspects of a young person’s life in a way not seen in previous generations.

“This has led to a cultural change in how young people may deal with issues of social isolation, bullying, depression, behavioural disorders, boredom or family breakdown,” she said.

“Quite often young people will turn to a screen instead of another person, with a third of them sourcing information online about mental health problems and many using the internet to remain socially connected.”

The research team found the association between internet and gaming to be cause enough for concern to parents, educators and service providers.