|Year : 2012 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 94-97
Problematic use of social networking sites among urban school going teenagers
Parth Singh Meena, Pankaj Kumar Mittal, Ram Kumar Solanki
Department of Psychiatry, SMS Medical College, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
|Date of Web Publication||9-Oct-2013|
Parth Singh Meena
A 10, Shivshakti Nagar, Jaipur, Rajasthan
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
| Abstract|| |
Background: Social networking sites like Facebook, Orkut and Twitter are virtual communities where users can create individual public profiles, interact with real-life friends and meet other people based on shared interests. An exponential rise in usage of Social Networking Sites have been seen within the last few years. Their ease of use and immediate gratification effect on users has changed the way people in general and students in particular spend their time. Young adults, particularly teenagers tended to be unaware of just how much time they really spent on social networking sites. Negative correlates of Social Networking Sites usage include the decrease in real life social community participation and academic achievement, as well as relationship problems, each of which may be indicative of potential addiction. Aims: the aim of the study was to find out whether teenagers, specially those living in cities spend too much time on social networking websites. Materials and Methods: 200 subjects, both boys and girls were included in the cross sectional study who were given a 20 item Young's internet addiction test modified for social networking sites. The responses were analyzed using chi square test and Fisher's exact test. Results: 24.74% of the students were having occasional or 'frequency' problems while 2.02% of them were experiencing severe problems due to excessive time spent using social networking sites. Conclusion: With the ever increasing popularity of social media, teenagers are devoting significant time to social networking on websites and are prone to get 'addicted' to such form of online social interaction.
Keywords: Internet addiction, social networking sites, teenagers
|How to cite this article:|
Meena PS, Mittal PK, Solanki RK. Problematic use of social networking sites among urban school going teenagers. Ind Psychiatry J 2012;21:94-7
The last decade witnessed an explosion of social-networks such as Facebook, which added a new social dimension to the web. There has been a rapid emergence of online interactions between groups of people who share similar interests, though they are congregated in an absolute space.  A number of websites (e.g., Facebook, Orkut, Twitter, Google plus) have implemented dynamic social contents in which online communities can be built and sustained easily through the facilitation of social connections and communications between users. While such networks have made people, communities and groups with shared interests stay more "connected," problematic use of Internet and social-network in particular also started being recognized as psychological disorders all over the world. While the main focus of studiesin psychiatry pertaining to internet in last decade of 20 th century was on Internet "addiction," it shifted to the problem related to the usage of social networking sites in the first decade of 21 st century.
Young adults, particularly teenagers tended to be unaware of just how much time they really spent on social networking sites, and the effect this might have on their academic performance and social interaction. It has also been noted in studies that there may be a correlation between low self-esteem and a sense of social inadequacy and social network addiction.  From academic procrastination to social impairment as far as real physical interactions are concerned, diminished productivity at work and physical problems associated with a sedentary life-style; there seem to be enough problems related to Internet and social network addictions to give researchers enough to work on for many years to come.
Evidence of this trend can be seen by industrial reports from agencies that monitor the activities of online users. In 2009, it was reported that an average social-network user around the world spent more than 5½ h per month on social networking sites, which was triple the time spent on other online activities, such as web browsing. From April 2008 to April 2009, the total minutes spent on Facebook in U.S., in particular, has increased from 1.7 billion minutes to 13.9 billion minutes (700% annual growth). 
Alongside these figures, research studies show that sociability of the Internet is responsible for the excessive amount of time individuals spend having interactions via forums, online games, and blogs. , In other words, the recent emergence of these new social media technologies has changed the concept of the Internet as well as its usage. As a result, findings from prior studies on internet dependencies, excessive use or addictions may not be valid in this new context. Thus, there is a need to investigate the concept of the technological dependency under this new context.
| Materials and Methods|| |
A cross-sectional study was conducted, which included 200 students (115 boys and 85 girls) studying in class XI and XII in schools in urban localities.
The subjects must be using internet either at home or at other places like cyber cafés. Problematic use of social networking sites characterized by excessive indulgence in internet social networking adversely affecting academic and co-curricular activities as well associal and interpersonal behavior was assessed by young's internet addiction test modified for problematic social networking use.  Each question in the Young's internet addiction test was asked specifically in context of social networking sites.
Young's internet problematic use scale is a self-report questionnaire containing 20 items. The items on the instrument are scoredon a 6-point severity scale with a score of one denoting rare problematic use at one extreme and five denoting 'always' a problematic use while 0 denotes 'does not apply' to the individual question. The total global scores range from 0 to100.
Two subjects were dropped out of the study as they were not using any social networking sites on the internet.
Appropriate statistical tools and methods will be employed to calculate and compile data.
| Results|| |
Out of 200 students to whom the questionnaire was prescribed 198 completed and returned to the investigators. Only two students returned the questionnaire without completing as they were not registered to any of the social-network sites.
It was found that 84% of the students were having access to internet at home (83.4% of boys and 85.3% of girls) and rest were using internet at cyber café [Table 1].
The scores were categorized into three groups; scores 20-49 (Group a) denotes average online users, but the users are warned to have control over their indulgence in social networking sites. It was found that 59% ( n=117) of all students and 67.47% of girls students and 53% of boy student fall into this category. The difference was found to be statistically significant [Table 2].
|Table 2: Scores of students on young's internet scale modified for social networking sites|
Click here to view
Scores 50-79 (Group b) denotes that the users were experiencing occasional or frequency problems, i.e., they were either spending too much time surfing the social networking sites occasionally or were visiting the networking sites very frequently. 24.74% ( n=49) of the responders fall into this category. 31.3% of boys responders and 15.66% of girl responders belong to this category of social networking site users, while 4 out of 198 students falls into Group c (scores 80-100) all of which were boys. Scores 80-100 denotes significant problem and the users need to address their problematic use of social networking sites urgently as the score indicated that those students were spending too much of their time on social networking websites and that was having serious deleterious effect onto their academic, co-curricular, social, and interpersonal activities.
[Table 3] represents the time duration since when the students were using social networking sites. 50% ( n=99) of the total students have been using social networking sites for more than 3 years. Boys outnumber girls when it comes to the total number of months of their usage but the difference was not statistically significant. 36.86% ( n=73) students were using these sites for more than a year but less than 3 years while only 13% of the users have started using the networking sites since last 1 year. The number of girls belonging to new users was more than boys and the difference was statistically significant.
| Discussion|| |
The results of our study reflects the usage of social networking sites among teenagers particularly those who reside in urban localities and who has got easy accessibility to internet as it is readily available at their residence for their usage.
The study depicted some alarming state of affairs pertaining to urban teenagers' life-style. Soon after the advent of internet in a common person's life, social experts, behaviorologists and mental-health professionals started alarming the internet users about the impending detrimental effects of internet. Unnecessary web-searching, online pornography and online gaming were the most common problems associated with internet use. Very soon interacting with other people using online chat became an epidemic like phenomenon world over. It became fairly common to find people interacting more in the cyber space rather than real world. Now a day's excessive internet usage is a well-recognized problem and many mental-health professionals are of the opinion that problematic internet use should be considered as a codable psychiatric illness.
Social networking sites is the latest fad as far as the interactive activities in the cyber world is concerned.
It was a stunning finding that only 1% (2 out of 200) students whom the investigators approached were not using social networking sites. Even those who had not access to internet at home were using social networking sites indicating the wide-spread popularity of these sites among school going teenagers.
The study confirmed that social networking sites are prominent part of social communication among school going teenagers and it is also clear that these sites have embedded themselves in the school culture. They have also become a part of school going student's daily life. Additionally, given that a vast majority of students (86.9%) have been using social networking sites for over a year. Similar finding were replicated in earlier studies conducted by Andreas Spraggins, 2009 in Florida state of USA and Owyang, 2008. ,
The fact that almost one quarter of the entire school going teenagers fall into Group b (scores 50-79) indicates an alarming trait. These were the students who were experiencing frequent problems because of excessive use of social networking sites. This excessive indulgence was having impact on all aspects of their life including, academic and co-curricular activities. The outdoor activities of such teenagers such as playing outdoor games, visiting friends and kin, visiting places such as amusement parks, zoo, museums, and religious places were affected in a negative manner.
Even more disturbing was the finding that 2% of all students from the sample belonged to Group c (scores 80-100), which indicate that the indulgence in these social networking sites was having very serious and significant impact over their lives and they must immediately address to the problem. Such students spend almost all of their leisure time on internet. They tend to cut-off from the real world and virtually live a 'cyber-life'. They make new relationships, interact with them, play games with them, and share their intimate secrets and emotions with them, all in a virtual world of cyber space. The outdoor activities of such teenagers are almost diminished. They crave for going online even while they have more important works to do like studying for exams, completing some assignment or project work, preparing and practicing for a sports event or visiting some relative who seek their proximity and help.
A greater danger is that teens may become targets of sexual harassment online. False, illicit, demeaning and vulgar comments and information about teenagers, especially, girls can be pasted online by miscreant and mischievous persons. They may even become victim of pedophiles; the anonymity of some social networking sites makes it easy for unscrupulous people to target young teens and engage them in harmful conversations. It's easy for predators to pose as teens and lure children into harmful real world contact as well. 
Cyber bullying and harassment are most often perpetrated by other teens and tend to happen most to older girls and to teens of either gender who have a strong online presence.
It is up to the teachers, parents and wards of the children to make sure that they keep an eye over the children's internet usage. They must encourage the children to participate in interactive activities with their peer group in school and neighborhood. Outdoor sports and games not only make children physically fit, strong, and healthier but also give them chance to work as a team and coordinate their activities as a group. Similarly, the children should be encouraged to visit their friends' home so that they learn and improve their social and communication skills in real life situations.
Precautionary measures that parents of teenage children should take
- Always keep an eye over the internet usage. Keep vigil over the content of websites visited
- Make sure that children access internet only in a common room where parents and other senior members of the house hold can scrutinize them. Children should not be permitted to use internet in their bedroom
- Keep check over the amount of time spent on computer, especially on internet usage
- Children should be asked in a friendly manner, about the work they do online and what all sites they visit frequently.
Social networking safety
It is the responsibility of both the parents and teachers to make sure that their children are safe when they use social networking sites. They must be told not to give out personal information they don't know. Children should be encouraged to tell, if they are victim of cyber bullying or harassment. Moreover, the parents must warn their children about the time they are spending on social networking sites.
| Conclusion|| |
In a highly digitized era, people can hardly live without computers and the Internet. While we are admiring the conveniences and advantages brought by the Internet, there is growing concern about addictive Internet use and whether this can lead to a 'problematic use' of social networking sites. In this study, we found that social networking sites have become a part of urban teenagers' life and school culture. A significant number of school going teenagers, particularly those residing in urban localities are using the social networking sites excessively to the extent of being regarded as 'problematic use;' The problem being more common and more significant in boys as compared to girls.
Given the extensive use of social networking sites and their impact, it may be of interest to not only researchers but to parents, teachers and other care givers of children.
| Acknowledgment|| |
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. C. K. Punnoose, Vice Principal, St. Xavier's Senior Secondary School, Jaipur for allowing us to conduct the study inside the school campus. Without his support and encouragement, this study could not have been carried out.
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[Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]
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