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Unconvincing Study of the Week: Internet Addiction Drives Teen Violence!

In a newly published study involving 9,405 Taiwanese adolescents, researchers at Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan found that those with symptoms of “Internet addiction” were more likely to claim that they’d hit, shoved or threatened someone in the past year.

According to the research team, the symptoms include preoccupation with online activities, withdrawal-like symptoms, such as moodiness and irritability, after being offline for several days, and skipping other activities and engagements to spend more time online.

The research, based on questionnaires about Internet use and behavior, classified 25 percent of the boys and 13 percent of the girls as Internet addicts. Of that group, 37 percent reported aggressive behavior.

Two things: First, judging by the so-called symptoms outlined by the researchers, I’d guess a full 95 percent of Internet users are “addicts.” My own dad, who routinely prides himself on “doing things the old-fashioned way,” gets grouchy if after a few days, he can’t check his email and stock quotes. It also strikes me as alarmist when studies suggest that some percentage of teenagers acting stupidly is a new thing. I doubt it’s the Internet so much as their undeveloped prefrontal cortexes.

No wonder researchers have already jumped all over the study, published yesterday in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Suggested one University of Michigan psychology professor of the root problem: “[It could just as well be that] people with poor social skills don’t have any friends, so they spend a lot of time on the Internet and can’t resolve conflicts in non-aggressive ways.”