Starting college is a major transition to a new environment, where students are encouraged to use the Internet as a tool to keep in touch with hometown friends, meet new people, and learn about the area–not to mention to explore career options and work on online projects. So it’s no surprise that college students are often glued to any number of smart devices and often believe that their screen time is justified. However, a students’ vulnerability to internet addiction in young adults can have a significant impact on their academic success–leading to low self-esteem, loss of motivation, a decline in grades, and the decision to drop off and focus efforts elsewhere.

How is Internet Addiction Defined?

Internet addiction can be defined as spending countless hours of the day online, anger in response to the disruption of their time on the internet, or physically being unable to stop checking social media. Once activities on the internet start to interrupt daily life, there may be a larger issue. This can be harmful to young adults because it could lead to isolation, dishonesty issues, and trouble developing relationships offline. These are not the only indicators but are major points to consider.

There are a number of factors that influence an individual’s vulnerability to internet addiction in young adults. Some examples include:

  • Wanting to avoid stressful situations in one’s offline life
  • Addictive personality traits and difficulties with impulse control
  • Lack of alternative hobbies or interests
  • The quality of their offline social relationships
  • The desire for instant gratification

Why Are College Students Vulnerable to Internet Addiction?

One study, conducted by Georgia State University, suggests that college students are particularly vulnerable to internet addiction, as have free Internet access, large blocks of free time, courses that require its use, and sudden freedom from parental control and monitoring. These factors make it harder for college students to set boundaries around their internet use.

When the University of Maryland asked college students to give up media for a single day, students showed signs of withdrawal, cravings, anxiety, and an inability to focus after just 24 hours. One student reported, “texting and messaging my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort. When I did not have those luxuries, I felt quite alone and secluded from my life.”

Psychologists have questioned the role of social media as a way for young adults who feel isolated in their hometowns or new situations to maintain connections with others and feel more connected to people around them–even from a distance. College students are in this unique predicament where they are told that college is a time to focus on their identity exploration and career goals, but they also feel pressure to make lifelong relationships. For many college students, being active online allows them to explore both without feeling like they have to prioritize one or the other. 

Over time, the amount of information that they consume online can lead to increased anxiety and social isolation that interferes with in-person relationships and school/work performance. The more time that college students spend scrolling through social media or playing video games, the less time and energy they have available to dedicate to their work or self-care.

How Can College Students Refocus on Their Career Goals?

College students are often told that the biggest takeaway they should have from attending college is the power of networking. But as networking shifts online, they may lose motivation to attend classes, participate in class discussions, or approach strangers in the library or at social events, especially if they struggle with social anxiety and low levels of confidence. 

Wilderness therapy programs talk about networking from a different perspective: the importance of building a social support system to buffer against stress and promote wellbeing. The underlying idea of interdependence is the same, but relationships developed in wilderness therapy involve more vulnerability than adding a classmate on LinkedIn and comparing each other’s accomplishments. In a group therapy setting, young adults who have struggled with feeling stuck and directionless are able to provide support and advice to their peers who have lost the motivation to pursue their goals.

One of the most transformative parts of a wilderness therapy experience is time away from the Internet. Most college students do not recognize the amount of time they spend online, especially if several hours are dedicated to schoolwork and it only takes a few moments at a time to respond to text messages. Spending time away from their phones encourages young adults to consider the role the Internet plays in helping them achieve their goals and in distracting them from taking the steps they need to take to get there. Wilderness therapy programs that specialize in working with young adults also offer career counseling. Staff work closely with each student to help them find meaning in their experiences and confidently pursue their personal, academic, and career goals.

blueFire PulsaR Can Help 

blueFire PulsaR is a co-ed adventure therapy program for young adults ages 18-28. Adventure therapy, wilderness ventures, equine therapy, academic opportunities and “family spark” are used to help students open up and look at their life. From there they are able to experience growth and adopt healthy self-management skills. This program is dedicated to helping students regain a better sense of the world around them while addressing their emotions and needs head-on. We can help your family today.

Contact us at 208-269-7407 for more information about internet addiction in young adults.


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