A small study by the United Kingdom’s University of Surrey suggests a scale for people researchers consider to be addicted to the internet.
The research published Monday looks at what experts qualify as an addiction, splitting users into five categories for how internet-addicted they may be.
According to the lead author of the study, Brigitte Stangl, the goal was to “clarify” the difference between using the internet problematically and being addicted to it.
Almost 800 participants were involved in the study and were determined to fall into five groups of internet users:
initial users; and
“We also wanted to explore how the severity of internet addiction affects users’ experience with new, high-tech applications like augmented reality,” Stangl said in a press release.
Those wondering whether they’d be considered by researchers to have an addiction can read through the criteria below and see which category they most associate with.
Researchers say the younger a person is, the more likely they are to be “addicted to the internet.” This tendency, according to the survey, decreases with age.
More than one-fifth, or 22.36 per cent, of respondents openly acknowledged their internet addiction and recognized its negative impact on their lives, the peer-reviewed research found.
These people, who fit into the “addicts” category, were found to be the most confident using new apps and technology, researchers said.
Another 17.96 per cent of users displayed addictive behaviours but didn’t “admit to feeling uneasy when they’re not connected.”
Stangl and the rest of the research team classified this group as “addicts-in-denial,” and highlighted as evidence of their addition that they “neglect” real-world responsibilities.
The people in this category said they like forming new relationships online and described themselves as confident in using mobile technology.
“Experimenters” was a term used to describe people who said they were “uneasy” or “anxious” when not connected to the internet.
Representing about 21.98 per cent of respondents, these types of people also answered that they were willing to try out new apps and technology. The average age of respondents in this category was between 22.8 and 24.3 years.
“Higher levels of addiction correlated with more confidence in using mobile technology, particularly a greater willingness to try out new apps,” the press release says.
Another category was made up of people who, for example, went to the internet for something and “found themselves online longer,” the study reads.
These types of people were classified as “initial users,” and represented 22.86 per cent of respondents. Those in this group were described as being “somewhat neglectful” of real-world responsibilities but don’t consider themselves addicted.
Those who fell into this group said they were “moderately” interested in apps and had an average age of 26.1 years.
The group deemed “casual” users had the oldest average age of participants of the five categories. Those who were sorted into this group said they go online for a task and then log off, opting not to linger on the internet once their task is complete.
“They show no signs of addiction and are generally older, with an average age of 33.4 years,” the study reads. “They are the least interested in exploring new apps.”
Those behind the research say it highlights more opportunities to understand the addictiveness of the internet and how to assist people at different times.
“Our study underscores the need for tailored interventions and support for individuals at various stages of internet addiction,” Stangl said.