Introduction: There has been an explosive growth of Internet usage worldwide and this is expected to continue with its use becoming an integral part of everyday life. The Internet provides tremendous educational benefits; however, excessive Internet use can lead to negative outcomes such as poor school performance and social isolation.Materials and Methods: The survey consisted of a 69-item, anonymous, self-administered paper-and-pencil questionnaire. Data collected included demographic data, academic performance, social support and general wellbeing as well as questions pertaining to Internet use. For the purposes of our study, we defined Internet use of more than 5 hours a day as “excessive use”. Results: Of the 2735 adolescents who took part in the study, 1349 (49.3%) were male and 1383 (50.6%) were female. The mean age of the adolescents was 13.9 years [standard deviation (SD), 1.0]. A quarter of the adolescents surveyed (25%) reported that they did not access the Internet everyday, while 17.1% of adolescents reported using it for more than 5 hours every day. Excessive Internet use was associated with (i) no rules of Internet use at home (x2 = 313.1, P <0.001), (ii) less likelihood of having confidants (x2 = 15.8, P = 0.003), (iii) feelings of sadness or depression (x2 = 49.6, P<0.001) and (iv) perceived poorer grade/school work (x2 = 226.1, P<0.001). Conclusions: The high figures of excessive Internet use (17.1%) reported in our study is not equivalent to Internet addiction as no diagnostic instruments were used. However, school counsellors and teachers need to be made aware of the prevalence of and problematic behaviours associated with excessive Internet use. Training and resources should also be made available to parents and caregivers so that they can play a greater role in setting boundaries and detecting early warning signs.
There has been an explosive growth of Internet usage worldwide and this is expected to continue with its use becoming an integral part of everyday life. The Internet has become more accessible in homes, schools, colleges, libraries and Internet cafes; access is further aided with the increasing affordability of home computers over the last decade.
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