Youth Internet Use: Risks and Opportunities

Topics: Internet, Addiction, Human sexual behavior Pages: 16 (5804 words) Published: July 24, 2013
Youth Internet Use: Risks and Opportunities

Abstract and Introduction


Purpose of Review: The Internet has become all pervasive in the lives of young people and this paper will review studies that examine the risks and opportunities that it affords. We will examine research that investigates the more negative aspects of youth online behavior such as addiction as well as online risks such as harassment/cyber bullying and sexual solicitation. In addition, positive aspects of Internet use such as its potential for learning and enhancing social relations as well as delivering health interventions will be examined.

Recent Findings: The results show that online risks such as addiction, cyber bullying, and sexual solicitation are associated with negative consequences for youth. It is important to note that not all children are equally susceptible and more research is necessary to identify the youth most at risk as well as to develop effective interventions. The Internet can also provide benefits in the areas of cognitive, social, and physical development, and can also be used to deliver treatment interventions.

Summary: The Internet represents both risks and opportunities for young people. To protect youth who are at risk for online addiction, bullying, and solicitation, we need more research to understand which youth may be most susceptible and to develop targeted interventions to protect them. The Internet also has many positive aspects and can be used to enhance youth learning and empowerment; although it is a tremendous health resource and can be used to cheaply deliver interventions, we need to understand how to better implement them to enhance their effectiveness.


Technologies, such as computers and the Internet, have become enmeshed in young people's lives. According to the Kaiser report, in 2004, 74% of 8-year olds to 18-year olds in the United States had Internet access in their homes.[1] More recently, the 2008 World Internet Project survey of 13 countries revealed that among youth 12-years to 14-years, 88% in the United States used the Internet; the percentage of Internet users in this age group was 100% in the United Kingdom, 98% in Israel, 95% in Canada, and over 70% in Singapore.[2] Among adolescents, the communication applications of the Internet such as instant messaging, blogs, and social networking sites (e.g., MySpace, Facebook) are especially popular.[3••] As the Internet has become pervasive in the lives of young people, their online activities and interactions have become the focus of intense research. It is becoming evident that the Internet presents risks as well as opportunities to adolescent development; in this paper, we review recent research on the negative and positive aspects of Internet use. A preliminary search on the PsychINFO database for English-language articles published in the past 12 months on youth and computers yielded 212 works. After narrowing our focus to publications that dealt with Internet usage among children and adolescents in the home, 75 papers remained. This body of work examined a broad and diverse range of topics related to youth and their Internet behavior; here we review studies on the negative aspects of young people's online activity as well as the more positive applications of the Internet as a tool for child and adolescent health and social development.

Negative Aspects of Internet Use

For youth, the negative aspects of the Internet include Internet addiction as well as online risks such as exposure to sexually explicit material and online victimization including harassment or cyber bullying and sexual solicitation.

Internet Addiction

Excessive Internet use is emerging as one of the more negative aspects of young people's online activities. In the literature, such extreme use is often synonymous with the terms 'compulsive Internet use', 'problematic Internet use', 'pathological Internet use', 'Internet dependence',...

References: 2. Reuters. American Youth Trail Peers in Internet Usage. PC Magazine [serial on the Internet]. 2008 [cited 2009 January 27] November 25. Available from:,2817,2335412,00.asp
11. DFC Intelligence Forecasts Video Game Market to Reach $57 Billion in 2009 [Internet]. 2008 [cited 2008 December 17] July 2. Available from:
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