Dangers of youth addiction to the cyber world by COVID-19

Before the pandemic, a high school student spent around 7 hours a day in front of a screen, around 2,400 hours a year. What has been the impact of the coronavirus? Unreported Europe deals with a current topic: cyber addiction.

After many months of confinement, due to the pandemic, young people have become increasingly fond of the dopamine rush offered by exposure to screens. More and more parents what they worry because their children spend endless hours with the computer and the telephone, playing and studying. They fear that this will become an addiction.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I spend about eight hours a day in front of the computer. Before, I hardly used it. Now, I couldn’t live without a phone or a computer“, says the estudiant Benedetta Melegari.

Benedetta is 18 years old, lives in the Italian city of Genoa and is one of the 1.6 billion students, worldwide, whose education has been interrupted by the pandemic. He attended ‘distance’ classes for most of 2020 and still does.

“Benedetta, what do you think of what happened in the United States ten days ago and, more specifically, the attack on the Capitol?” The English teacher asks Benedetta.

“I think what has happened in the United States is shocking. It is shocking because it was something unexpected,” the student responds.

Although distance learning has maintained a kind of educational continuity during the pandemic, it has also been heavily criticized for keeping students ‘glued’ to their screens for too long. Although not everyone agrees.

Students begin to express a rejection of the screen because they begin to associate it with many hours of distance learning. This does not mean that they avoid using the telephone, because it has become a relatively new way of meeting other people; perhaps, right now, the only“says Roberto Rebora, an English teacher at the Grazia Deledda International School.

Benedetta admits that the time she spends on her mobile phone has skyrocketed since the pandemic began. He also ensures that he spends hours on social networks, without realizing it.

“I have less desire to do other things. I’m lazier. I usually say … okay! I’m going to rest for five minutes! And then I find myself, two hours later, on the couch glancing at Tik Tok or Instagram. It happens to me, especially at night. As a result, I find it difficult to fall asleep. I wake up and feel some agitation, “says the young student.

Spending all those hours in front of the computer means they interact less with the family. As a mother, I often ask myself: will this lead to addiction?asks Serena Vella, Benedetta’s mother.

She is not the only mother who cares. It is certainly not the first nor will it be the last. In 2017, the local Genoa Health Authority managed to bring together a group of experts to study the emerging phenomenon of youth cyber addiction. Unreported Europe has had access to one of its virtual meetings.

We have received twice as many requests for support and intervention after the confinements. In the last three months, that is, in October, November and December, we have assisted ten young people identified as cyber addicts“says Margherita Dolcino, chief psychologist at the Teen Myspace Center.

Coordinator Cristiana Busso explains that her new patients are predominantly males between the ages of 13 and 20. They already had an unhealthy relationship with tech gadgets before the pandemic. In fact, distance learning is not the cause of your addiction.

“We are not suggesting that technology addiction be measured by time spent in front of devices. Parents often view this as the main problem. We could better understand addiction, related to the type of use that the young person makes of these devices. The questions we must ask ourselves are, how do adolescents use the Internet? Why do they do it for so long?“, says the psychologist Cristiana Busso.

But how to identify a true addiction to screens in a generation connected to them? We went to Paris to consult with one of the most prominent researchers on cyber addiction. Michaël Stora is a psychoanalyst, writer and founder of the Observatory of Digital Worlds in Human Sciences.

“Little by little, the person will do nothing but play. The relationship with the video game will be similar to other types of addiction. The game will become more important than other social issues. The virtual link overrides the link with the real world. If the person does not manage to overcome this way of acting in six months, we can diagnose that it is cyber addiction“, afirma Michaël Stora.

According to the specialist, Almost all young people who suffer from cyber addiction have a high IQ. But, they also tend to have social and school phobias, and even autism problems.

“When these young people face failure, they collapse. The video game becomes a kind of interactive antidepressant,” adds Stora.

Video games allow them, above all, to become virtual heroes; keep fighting with great results. They are successful, but it comes very quickly“explains the psychoanalyst.

The opposite happens in real life, where success takes time. You have to persevere“, concludes Michaël Stora.

However, Stora is convinced that, for these adolescents, the addiction to video games can become an advantage. Thus created ‘The School of Heroes‘, where a selected number of young hardcore gamers are trained to become video game creators.

I don’t have a relationship with technology. I am technology“, declares Fidy Lefebvre, a young man who is studying at ‘The School of Heroes’.

“I would say that, every day I pass … how could I put it in a pleasant way … from 13 to 14 hours in front of a screen. Maximum 16 hours“says Fidy.

“I don’t think I’m addicted to video games. I haven’t been diagnosed with that addiction. But, anyway, it wouldn’t bother me either,” he adds.

Fidy is 16 years old. He stopped going to school a year ago. Your social abilities are affected by Asperger syndrome. His autism has challenged him and his parentsyes, for years. Today, they consider that technology is, rather, an ally.

Considering his condition, I consider video games a refuge. I conceive of them as a place where it feels good, as a space where it is happy.z. Therefore, it is more of a consolation, than an addiction problem to be solved, “says Hugues Lefebvre, Fidy’s father.

“We reestablished the rules before the coronavirus pandemic. Now, I am totally free. They only leave me without internet access, at night. It’s something, overwhelmingly sad,” explains Fidy Lefebvre.

It is still too early to analyze the full impact of prolonged social isolation on young people. It takes time to see if the increase in cyber addiction will end, when the pandemic ends, and to what extent it is reversible.

For me, screens are not ‘another world’. They are part of real life“concludes Fidy.

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