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Addictive online consumption and social exclusion

If you are 35 and over, you will have experienced your childhood and youth largely without the internet. Especially those people experience, in retrospect, a huge gap between the habits of children and adolescents back then and those of modern times.

It is interesting that today's adults consider changes, by the more and more popular internet, highly critically. Regularly you can read on social networks, that everything was so much easier back then. Of course, that is seen in a sarcastic or ironic light. To catch up with friends you just went to their house. Today, children and young people write hundreds of messages without personally seeing each other. Even though they often live nearby.

If you destroyed the internet, does that mean that you also would destroy the entire social life and the ability to connect with the children and youth of today?

A recent study held by the University Medical Centre Mainz has sounded the alarm in this regard. The scientists found out that already 3.4 percent of all young people use the internet in an addictive manner. Addictive in this context means for more than 6 hours per day as well as the increasing loss of control over the use of the internet. Another 14 percent of the young people who participated in the survey, use the internet service on their PC or Smartphone not in an addictive manner yet, but excessive and beyond. With other words a precursor to the aforementioned addictive behaviour.

Incidentally, the study also found that boys and girls use the internet about for the same amount. Anyone who still thinks that the Internet is a medium for boys while the girls, in particular, would rather “live in the real life”, are thoroughly wrong.

The consequences of excessive online consumption

The study looked at the aforementioned statistical results, but also followed up with the consequences of excessive online use, in particular in young people. Through interviews, it was found that young people who excessively use online games, film portals, erotic offers, etc., are increasingly losing their connection with their friends, respectively, show a poor connection to people in general. And it goes even further: Those adolescents tend to trust their friends less than those youth, who use the internet only sporadically.

Thus, young people single themselves out through this excessive internet use, losing a lot of interests, neglect social contacts, live increasingly one-sided lives and gradually lose the ability to connect with their fellow men.

In addition to the lack of social contacts and in particular to their friends, those young people using the internet a great deal almost always have family problems and poor academic achievements. Therefore, this excessive internet use affects virtually all areas of the life of the young person negatively.

What can be done against this excessive online use among young people?

Counteracting this development is difficult. At a certain age, young people can decide for themselves whether they prefer to spend their time with friends in the real life or on the Internet. And since the change in our society has already taken place so that the majority of young people spend a lot of time on the Internet, this vicious circle has to be broken first. Relevant in this context is awareness. Teenagers should be made aware, preferably already at school, what this excessive internet consumption entails. In this regard, the advantages of catching up with friends and doing something together in the real world cannot be emphasized enough. The objective is that eventually (hopefully) there will be a trend to return to such activities.

Youth Work & Smartphones

Every youth worker knows the situation: 10 young people are coming to the youth group, and at least 8 of them are permanently on their mobile. Depending on the program you had in mind that can be quite annoying. Also, there is hardly any time left after the youth group to talk, because everybody is busy to check their phone, see who is online and who they can chat with.

There should be no mobiles during the youth group or on holiday camps respectively. However, that is almost impossible to enforce. Not even schools succeed in this regard. Again and again students find ways to peek quickly on their mobile whenever it silently vibrates.

However, a wide-ranging program can help to ensure that the activities are enjoyable, and maybe, the kids can go on without their mobiles for the next 60 minutes.

That the mobile interferes with program sequences or at school respectively might be obvious to every child and teenager because it won’t allow you to focus on what you are supposed to do. A conversation or talk about the results of the above study might help one or the other kid to use their mobile more consciously in the future.

Or he might realize:

  • the mobile phone got me fully under control
  • I'm pretty much addicted
  • I neglect all my real social contacts
  • I am hiding behind my smartphone, and there I feel more comfortable as in a face to face encounter.

And something for the "younger" youth workers: They already belong to this mobile phone/smartphone generation. If you are too get distracted by your mobile phone, it is needless not mention, that no group session, however well conducted and prepared, can be successful.

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