An important proportion of infants and adolescents in Japan are using Internet-equipped devices, including smartphones, tablets, and game consoles. However, the relationship between the risk of IA and the age at initial habitual Internet use remains unknown. We aimed to investigate this relationship among adolescents.
We surveyed 1,775 subjects in seven public junior high schools in Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, in November 2017. Students were asked to complete the Young's Diagnostic Questionnaire (YDQ), which captured information regarding gender, school grade, night sleep, age at which they first started using the Internet at least once weekly, Internet usage situation, and Internet use time for purposes other than study. Data from subjects who reported experience of weekly Internet use were analyzed.
Junior high school students who were younger at initial weekly Internet use tended to have problematic Internet use (PIU) and to spend more time on Internet activities. In particular, initial weekly Internet use before the age of five in boys was associated with a significantly increased risk of PIU (YDQ ≥ 5), with an odds ratio of 14.955, compared with initial weekly Internet use after the age of 12. Smartphone ownership significantly increased the risk of PIU compared with no ownership among the total population and among girls.
Discussion and Conclusions
Junior high school male students displayed a robust relationship between initial weekly Internet use and PIU, whereas junior high school female students displayed a particularly strong relationship between smartphone ownership and PIU. Therefore, longitudinal IA preventive education from an early age is necessary.
Data from a specialist treatment facility for Internet addiction (IA) in Japan showed that (a) the vast majority of treatment seekers are addicted to online games, (b) their symptoms are often quite severe, and (c) there is a significant demand for IA treatment. In addition, systemic obstacles to the delivery of medical services in Japan exist due to the exclusion of IA criteria from ICD-10. Consequently, the inclusion of GD criteria in ICD-11 will almost certainly increase the capacity and quality of treatment through advances in research and possible changes in national medical systems to meet treatment demand.