Heavy Internet use leads to school burnout in teens

As if you didn’t need more proof that your darn kids need to get off the computer and into the back yard, researchers at the University of Helsinki and Department of Psychology have found that excessive Internet use — essentially bordering on addiction — leads to school burnout in teens.

There isn’t much detail on the definition of excessive use (you’ll know it when you see it), but the researchers write:

The research suggests that the most critical stage for tackling the problem of digital addiction and school burnout is age 13-15. The most effective way of supporting adolescents’ mental health and preventing excessive internet use is to promote school engagement, to build up students’ motivation to learn, and to prevent school burnout.

Depressive symptoms and school burnout in late adolescence are more common among girls than boys. Boys suffer more from excessive Internet use than girls.

School burnout is defined as a lack of desire to attend or work hard in school.

The research is related to the Mind the Gap project that studies thousands of students for Internet use and psychological issues. The bottom line isn’t pretty. “These results show that, among adolescents, excessive internet use can be a cause of school burnout that can later spill over to depressive symptoms,” said Katariina Salmela-Aro, a researcher for the project.

In the end it’s up to the parents how much Internet is too much. Sadly there are few guidelines for us and this study doesn’t seem to provide any. However, showing a direct connection between usage and depression is a terrible smoking gun and, perhaps, it might encourage us all to pull the plug every few days for a little family time without screens.