Internet usage has been on an upward trend for the past 20 years. Nowadays, most individuals browse the internet through their phones for social networking purposes (Ahuja, & Bharadwaj, 2016). Demographics of Internet usage show that young adults, college graduates and individuals from the higher socio-economic status background have higher internet usage ("Internet/Broadband Fact Sheet," 2017). There is a growing concern over the effects of internet use, especially the health consequences of the heavy and continuous use of the web. There are fears that internet use could be detrimental to the health of its users. There are three main reasons why internet use is harmful to an individual; its effects on physical health, cognitive development, and psychological health.
First, internet usage has a negative impact on a persons physical health. As individual spend most of their time in front of their computer monitors, the amount of time they engage in physical exercises is significantly reduced. The sedentary lifestyle that is typical of most internet users can be a major contributor to obesity and overweight. A study conducted by Vandelanotte, Sugiyama, Gardiner, and Owen (2009) aimed at determining the relationship between internet use and physical activity, and overweight and obesity found out that individuals with high internet use engage in more sedentary behaviors than those with no or less internet usage. Those with more internet use were also reported to be overweight or obese compared to non-internet users.
Second, another negative impact of Internet use is related to a persons cognitive development. One way in which internet use affect cognitive development is that it can result in shallower thinking or impedes analytical thinking. This is because access to vast information on the internet reduces persons need to get involved in more cognitively demanding processes. This means that individuals who are highly connected to the internet are at lower likelihood of adopting cognitive strategies needed to arrive at a solution when the solution is within reach (Mills, 2016). Another cognitive impact of internet use is on an individuals' memory large quantities of information found on the internet expose a person to inaccurate information that may result in false memory formation (Mills, 2016).
Lastly, internet usage has a negative effect on peoples psychological health. For instance, internet usage has been linked to depression. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine to examine the impact of social media habits on the moods of users found out that individuals who spend a longer time in social media are at a higher likelihood of being depressed. Moreover, findings from this study showed a statistically significant linear relationship between the use of social media and depression. Specifically, heavy social media users were 2.7 times more likely to be depressed than those who used social media less frequently ("Forbes Welcome", 2017). Heavy use of internet has also been linked to loneliness, narcissism, shyness, and neuroticism, which are indicators of poor psychological health (Ryan, & Xenos, 2011).
In conclusion, heavy Internet use has an adverse impact on users physical health, cognitive development, and psychological health. Because of these effects, there is a need for people to control their frequency of Internet use as well as the time they spend online. Failure to do so is tantamount to inflicting oneself physical, cognitive, and psychological self-injuries.
Ahuja, R., & Bharadwaj, A. (2016). Impact of Social Networking Sites on Indian Youth: Boon or Bane?. The International Journal of Indian Psychology, Volume 4, Issue 1, No. 80, 74.
Mills, K. (2016). Possible Effects of Internet Use on Cognitive Development in Adolescence. Media And Communication, 4(3), 4. http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/mac.v4i3.516
Ryan, T., & Xenos, S. (2011). Who uses Facebook? An investigation into the relationship between the Big Five, shyness, narcissism, loneliness, and Facebook usage. Computers In Human Behavior, 27(5), 1658-1664. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2011.02.004
Vandelanotte, C., Sugiyama, T., Gardiner, P., & Owen, N. (2009). Associations of Leisure-Time Internet and Computer Use With Overweight and Obesity, Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviors: Cross-Sectional Study. Journal Of Medical Internet Research, 11(3), e28. http://dx.doi.org/10.2196/jmir.1084
Internet/Broadband Fact Sheet. (2017). Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Retrieved 15 April 2017, from http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/internet-broadband/
Forbes Welcome. (2017). Forbes.com. Retrieved 15 April 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/amitchowdhry/2016/04/30/study-links-heavy-facebook-and-social-media-usage-to-depression/#614506624b53
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