The internet has overtaken college campuses as it has the workplace. College students use it for research, communication with classmates and professors, and other educational activities as well as being a means of entertainment. When considering the transition from home atmosphere to new independence along with several other factors, it’s possible for college to cultivate internet addiction in young adults.
The Freshman 10 and Other Worries
These days it’s not just putting on 10 pounds that has become a worry for college freshman. There’s a wide assortment of things that could cause concern as they transition to a new way of life.
When in college, young people’s time isn’t as structured. Classes account for twelve to sixteen hours per week, and the rest of that time is students’ own to read, study, hang out with friends, join clubs, or explore the new environment outside their campus walls. Another possibility is they forgo all of those other activities and concentrate on a means to escape any new pressures: the internet. Freedom from parental control is a teen’s dream, but subsequent transitional issues could lead to issues like internet addiction.
Escapism is part of the allure of internet, so it makes sense that college students would be susceptible to it. College is a major change, and some students may find themselves struggling and with a desire to escape college stressors. There are pressures for making top grades, fulfilling parental expectations, and facing fierce competition for good jobs upon graduation . Socially, they may find it difficult to find and make new friends, especially if they chose to go to a college far from home and thus won’t run into people they already know. They can turn to the internet to hide from difficulties and feelings of fear, anxiety, or depression falling into things like online gaming, which is a popular activity among young people. Video games are engaging virtual worlds that keep them both entertained and distracted but also offer a sense of belonging because online gaming can provide a sense of friendship with other gamers.
Internet over-use poses multiple problems. It’s well established that using the Internet too much can lead to a sedentary lifestyle and a decline in physical fitness that can result in additional weight gain, all of which have serious health implications. Many suffer with carpal tunnel syndrome, eye strain, and headaches. Additionally, researchers have found that the light from computer screens may affect circadian rhythms, creating a risk factor for sleep deprivation and insomnia, which can lead to depression.
Signs of Possible Internet Addiction
Internet addiction is characterized by more than excessive internet use. There’s also lack of sleep or excessive fatigue, declining grades, not caring about relationships with friends or significant others, withdrawing from previously enjoyed campus social activities and events, general apathy, edginess, or irritability when NOT on the Internet, lying about how much time they spend online and their activities, and rationalizing that what they learn on the Internet is superior to their classes. Some students may try to quit on their own if threatened with possible expulsion because of poor grades, but as the internet is a necessary tool to complete homework, they can easy slip right back into the same addictive patterns. In the worst case scenario, students may not realize the problem until consequences worsen, such as being kicked out of college.
Tackling College Struggles & Internet Addiction
Tackling internet or tech overuse requires several changes and a lot of self-discipline. As the situation worsens and becomes more of an addiction, additional help and support may be required.
▪ Lifestyle changes. It is often difficult for people suffering from a psychological issue to make lifestyle changes on their own. However, a healthy diet, a good sleep schedule, and regular exercise can go a long way towards facilitating recovery. Staying active in non-Internet activities is also important.
▪ Individual therapy. There are several models of therapy, such as psychotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. The best choice is usually up to a person’s preferences, but cognitive-behavioral therapy is a popular approach for Internet addiction.
▪ Group therapy. Group therapy provides a safe, supportive space for a group of people suffering from similar issues to share their struggles and journey with others who can empathize and offer insight from their own experiences.
▪ In-patient treatment. In-patient treatment provides a high level of support and treatment with access to on-site doctors and the support of other patients. It is often used when out-patient methods are not effective because it is an opportunity to work through issues in a place that separates people from the source of their struggles. For internet addiction, that can be incredibly helpful since computers and the internet are a regular aspect of modern life.
▪ Wilderness therapy. Similar to in-patient treatment in that these programs are time spent away from trouble sources, wilderness therapy uses nature to spur change and can place a bigger focus on whole-body wellness and more tangible accomplishments. Many people turn to wilderness therapy for the enriching environment it provides.
Pacific Quest wilderness therapy for adolescents and young adult in Hawaii is one such program. “At Pacific Quest, we have seen great success treating internet addiction using our Sustainable Growth™ model, which focuses on the mind-body connection, the importance of nature, and the individual’s place within the community, as well as the essential aspects of clinical care.”
Pacific Quest incorporates healthy living, a high level of clinical care with both individual and group therapy time, horticulture therapy, and other aspects that create and reinforce well-being in order to help young people through their addictions and behavior issues. It’s a complete program that can address internet addiction as well as any underlying issues.
If you’d like to learn more about internet addiction and how Pacific Quest’s wilderness therapy program can help, please contact us at 808-937-5806.
We are frequently discussing the topic of Internet addiction on our Family Resource Blog.