A two-year project to raise awareness of internet addiction could target Scottish university freshers. The in SCREEN MODE project was launched in September 2017 and will reach its climax next month as more than 240,000 higher education students begin the 2019 academic year in Scotland.
The project aims to promote the smart and responsible use of the internet among young people (16-25 years old). It also proposes appropriate actions for reducing their screen time and promoting interactive and interpersonal activity offline.
Edinburgh-based digital solutions provider, Civic Computing, has been working with partners including Nottingham Trent University and GlobalCitizen.it on the project, which was instigated by Erasmus+, the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport.
The group has developed the Problematic Internet Use (PIU) Genie – an online tool focused on helping young people measure their online behaviour and internet use.
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It is hoped that this will help youngsters to learn more about internet addiction, and provide action plans on how to moderate excessive internet use. Nicole Liddell, account manager at Civic, said that there about 420 million people in the world who are addicted to the internet.
She said: “People use the internet regularly now, and we don’t want to stop that. We know that’s the way the world is going but you still need to have that human connection.
“We’re not saying that the internet is terrible. The goal is not to paint the internet in a negative light whatsoever. It’s to promote a balance, highlight how it can enhance our lives but also be aware of the dangers.”
Benefits of the internet, she noted, include the potential to increase productivity, enable easier communication and it can also be a useful educational tool. But the partners behind the project, who hope to spread the word during freshers week, want to enable youngsters to reduce the amount of time they spend on the internet.
Liddell said: “When they go home, we want them to be able to spend time with their friends and family instead of spending so much time on social media.
“Research has shown that using the internet too much can affect people’s health, it may affect them academically or at work, and it can prevent people from having a balanced lifestyle.
“There’s also the feeling of fear of missing out, which is a genuine thing. If you don’t have your phone for an hour you can be anxious to check it.
“And excessive use of the internet can also lead to lower empathy, with people interacting with their mobiles rather than face to face.”
The PIU works by combining different information, such as age, sex, country of residence, urges that may trigger the need to use the internet, active engagement with online applications on a daily basis, and behaviours/feelings that individuals may have been experiencing due to Internet overuse.
Based on this information, the Genie will provide individuals with a report that explains their current state of internet use, and recommends certain strategies and actions that could help them to manage their time spent online and/or cope with prior negative feelings and states that they might experience due to Internet use.