Researchers have suggested that young adults who are heavy users of the Internet may also exhibit signs of addiction.

The research tracked the Internet usage of 69 college students over two months. Lead researcher Sriram Chellappan, an assistant professor of computer science at Missouri S and T, said the findings provided significant new insights into the association between Internet use and addictive behaviour.

At the beginning of the study, the students completed a 20-question survey called the Internet-Related Problem Scale (IRPS). The IRPS measures the level of problem a person has due to Internet usage, on a scale of 0 to 200. This scale was developed to identify characteristics of addiction such as introversion, withdrawal, craving, tolerance and negative life consequences. The survey also captures escapism, ratings of loss of control, and reduced time on daily activities.

The researchers simultaneously tracked the campus Internet usage of participating students over two months. After agreeing to participate in the study, the students were assigned pseudonyms to prevent the researchers from linking specific students’ identities with their Internet usage data.

Dr. Chellappan, P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Duke University Medical Centre, and their colleagues found that the range of IRPS scores among the participants over the two-month period ranged from 30 to 134. The average score was 75. Participants’ total Internet usage ranged from 140 megabytes to 51 gigabytes, with an average of 7 gigabytes. The subjects’ Internet usage was divided into several categories, including gaming, chatting, file downloading, email, browsing and social networking. The total IRPS scores exhibited the highest correlations with gaming, chatting and browsing, and the lowest with email and social networking.

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