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Turned into toddlers: The concerning impact internet addiction has on teenagers

3AW Breakfast

A pioneering study has discovered the concerning lifelong impact internet addiction has on the brains of teenagers.

New research has revealed excessive screen time triggers biological changes which stunt emotional development and reduce teenagers’ ability to set goals and regulate their emotions.

Co-author of the study, Professor Joseph Ciarocchi, says he expected to see that kids with existing emotional problems were drawn to excessive internet use, and was surprised to find the problem began with the internet.

“We found that it was internet addiction that was leading to problems, rather than problems leading to internet addictions,” he told Tony Leonard and Darren James, filling in for Ross and John.

“Kids who got hooked by social media or gaming became worse and worse at regulating their emotions.”

Dealing with internet addiction is more nuanced than other types of addiction, due to how essential the internet is in day-to-day life.

“Kids need to be able to be on the internet to interact with their friends … and they need it for their future jobs, so you can’t exclude them from the internet,” Professor Ciarocchi said.

“It’s a balancing act.”

Professor Ciarocchi said it’s not the amount of time spent on the internet that determines addiction, it’s a person’s relationship with the internet.

“If you feel like you can’t get off it, if you feel like when you’re off it all you’re doing is thinking about it … if it’s disrupting your normal life activities it’s a massive addition,” he said.

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3AW Breakfast