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Internet Addiction: Is Your Teen at Risk?

Certain Psychiatric Conditions Make Teens More Prone to Internet Addiction, Study Shows
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By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 6, 2009 -- Kids with ADHD, hostility, social phobia, or depression may be more likely to become addicted to the Internet, according to a new study.

Researchers in Taiwan examined the relationship between psychiatric symptoms and Internet addiction in 2,162 junior high students over a period of two years.  About 11% of study participants were classified as having an Internet addiction in the initial assessment.

Chih-Hung Ko, MD and colleagues from Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan found that being male, playing online games, and using the Internet daily for more than 20 hours a week were risk factors for addiction.

Over the two-year follow-up, ADHD was the most significant predictor, followed by hostility. For boys, hostility was the greatest predictor, and for girls ADHD was the greatest predictor. Social phobia and depression were predictors only in girls.

Online addiction can be destructive and should be taken seriously, researchers say in their report. The addiction can hurt school performance, family relationships, and adolescents' emotional state, according to background information in the study.

"Identification of the risk factors for Internet addiction is therefore of clinical significance for the prevention of, and early intervention into, Internet addiction in adolescents," the researchers write. The study is published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. The researchers also noted that gender differences should be taken into account during future research about Internet addiction prevention.

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