Around 8 per cent of young people in Cyprus are addicted to social media, while 24 per cent are addicted to the internet, according to the first-ever such pancyprian survey carried out by Alexander College.
Due to the pandemic, the research, supported by the Cyprus Addiction Treatment Authority, the Youth Board and the Hellenic Bank was presented behind closed doors.
The survey sample consisted of 1,059 young people aged 15-35, of whom 465 were students. By gender, the sample consisted of 622 women and 437 men.
According to the study there is growing scientific evidence an over-reliance on technology has led to the impoverishment of social skills that are sacrificed for the sake of continuous connection resulting in a shortened attention span and a reduction in the ability to retain information.
Addiction is defined as a situation where a person is overly preoccupied with the object of their addiction, are driven by a strong motivation to engage with it and devote so much time and effort that it harms other social activities, studies, work, interpersonal relationships, mental health and well-being.
According to the results of the survey, from those polled the average age at which they were introduced to the internet was 10.5 and they created their first social media accounts at around 12.5 years.
Most popular was Instagram (44 per cent), YouTube (25 per cent) and Facebook (14 per cent).
Eighty-nine per cent connected to the internet through their smart phones and spent an average 4.3 hours online a day.
Just over a quarter of those polled spent two hours online, 35 per cent up to four hours, 30 per cent up to eight hours and nine per cent spent eight hours and over online.
“The findings showed that 8.3 per cent of young people in the sample experience symptoms of social media addiction,” the study said. The figure for young females was higher.
Seven per cent thought online communication was better than face-to-face communication, 36 per cent found themselves preoccupied with going online when they were not connected.
Another 26 per cent said they often or very often used the internet to forget about personal problems.
A significant proportion of young people, 17 per cent and especially female students (21 per cent) have repeatedly used the internet to the extent it had a negative impact on their studies.
Around 26 per cent of those surveyed also said they would “feel lost” if they could not connect, while 44 per cent overall said they were unable to control the amount of time they spent online.
Alexander College’s Costas Christodoulides who presented the study said: “The research showed that the rates of problematic use of social media and the internet in the youth population in Cyprus are a cause for concern. In addition to the positives, there is a ‘dark’ aspect associated with social media and the internet.”
He said the government and parliament needed to recognise the problem and its possible progression and respond by allocating resources, and planning and implementing a prevention and treatment policy.