American college students are hooked on cellphones, social media and the Internet and showing symptoms similar to drug and alcohol addictions, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Maryland who asked 200 students to give up all media for one full day found that after 24 hours many showed signs of withdrawal, craving and anxiety along with an inability to function well without their media and social links.
Susan Moeller, the study's project director and a journalism professor at the university, said many students wrote about how they hated losing their media connections, which some equated to going without friends and family.
"I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening," said one student. "Between having a Blackberry, a laptop, a television, and an iPod, people have become unable to shed their media skin."
Moeller said students complained most about their need to use text messages, instant messages, e-mail and Facebook.
"Texting and IM-ing my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort," wrote one of the students, who blogged about their reactions. "When I did not have those two luxuries, I felt quite alone and secluded from my life."
Few students reported watching TV news or reading a newspaper.
The American Psychiatric Association does not recognize so-called Internet addiction as a disorder.
But it seems to be an affliction of modern life. In one extreme example in South Korea reported by the media, a couple allegedly neglected their three-month-old daughter, who died of malnutrition, because they were on the computer for up to 12 hours a day raising a virtual child.
In the United States a small private U.S. center called ReSTART, located near Redmond, Washington, opened last year in the shadow of computer giant Microsoft to treat excessive use of the Internet, video gaming and texting.
The center's website cites various examples of students who ran up large debts or dropped out of college due to their obsession.
Students in the Maryland study also showed no loyalty to news programs, a news personality or news platform. They maintained a casual relationship to news brands, and rarely distinguished between news and general information.
"They care about what is going on among their friends and families and even in the world at large," said Ph.D. student Raymond McCaffrey who worked on the study. Loyalty "does not seemed tied to any single device or application or news outlet."
(Reporting by Walden Siew; Editing by Patricia Reaney)
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