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Teens addicted to their phones and the internet during the COVID-19 outbreak
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[Provided by Professor Min-Pei Lin and his team from the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling]

Smartphones and the popularization of the internet have allowed teenagers to rapidly expand their spheres of life, scope of recreational activities, and interpersonal relationships. The internet can also be utilized to create a ubiquitous learning environment to increase performance and competitiveness. The COVID-19 outbreak has further integrated phones and the internet into every aspect of teenagers’ lives. It has been observed, however, that during the pandemic, many Taiwanese teenagers have become addicted to their phones and the internet, affecting their pace of life, negatively impacting academic performance, impeding interpersonal relationships, and, in severe cases, inducing health problems. So exactly how bad was the problem of Taiwanese teenagers’ internet addiction during the COVID-19 outbreak, and what caused them to become addicted to their phones and the internet?

The research team found that 24.4% of Taiwanese junior high school students experience internet addiction. Psychosocial risk factors such as higher impulsivity, higher virtual social support, lower subjective well-being, lower family function, and higher alexithymia may all significantly increase the risk of internet addiction in teenagers. Teenagers have already grown to be inseparable from their phones and the internet, especially during the pandemic. Also, digital learning has now become an important learning method. It is therefore suggested to increase family function and subjective well-being in teenagers, decrease their virtual social support, and help them identify and describe their emotions as well as improve their impulse control.


Smartphones and the popularization of the internet have allowed teenagers to rapidly expand their spheres of life, scope of recreational activities, and interpersonal relationships. The internet can also be utilized to create a ubiquitous learning environment to increase performance and competitiveness. The COVID-19 outbreak has further integrated phones and the internet into every aspect of teenagers’ lives. It has been observed, however, that during the pandemic, many Taiwanese teenagers have become addicted to their phones and the internet, affecting their pace of life, negatively impacting academic performance, impeding interpersonal relationships, and, in severe cases, inducing health problems. So exactly how bad was the problem of Taiwanese teenagers’ internet addiction during the COVID-19 outbreak, and what caused them to become addicted to their phones and the internet?

Taiwan’s first COVID-19 case was diagnosed on January 28, 2020. New cases exploded rapidly in February, and as a result, schools in Taiwan extended their winter breaks by two weeks, including junior high schools, which reopened on February 25. This study surveyed 1,060 junior high school students from March 2 through March 27, 2020. The prevalence of Internet addiction (IA) was found to be 24.4% during this period. When compared to the non-IA group, the IA group was found to be significantly older in age, and to have higher neuroticism, higher impulsivity, higher rates of depression, higher alexithymia, lower self-esteem, lower subjective well-being, lower actual social support, higher virtual social support, and lower family function. High impulsivity, high virtual social support, being older in age, low subjective well-being, low family function, and high alexithymia [1] were all independently predictive in the forward logistic regression analyses. These results can serve as a guideline for educational agencies and mental health organizations. Teenagers have already grown to be inseparable from their phones and the internet, especially during the pandemic. Also, digital learning has now become an important learning method. It is therefore suggested to increase family function and the subjective well-being of teenagers, to decrease their virtual social support, and to help teenagers identify and describe their emotions as well as improve their impulse control.

Note: 1. Alexithymia, also called emotional blindness, is a neuropsychological phenomenon characterized by significant challenges in recognizing, expressing, and describing one's own emotions.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7698622/pdf/ijerph-17-08547.pdf


Min-Pei Lin Professor | Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling

Lin is a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, NTNU. His research areas include internet addiction in adolescence, the causes and prevention of depression and non-suicidal self-injury, mindfulness, stress management, and emotional health. He was awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award by NTNU in 2016 and 2020, as well as the Special Outstanding Talent Award by the National Science and Technology Council in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023. He has also been awarded the NTNU Distinguished Award in Teaching, and was named Distinguished Professor (2020-2022).

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