Internet usage during the pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic and related restrictive lockdown measures may lead to stress, depression, and anxiety due to fear of the virus, financial insecurity, uncertainty about the future, and confinement. Psychoactive substances and various activities that trigger behavioural addiction (gambling, video games, watching serials, social media usage, adult content consumption, and Internet usage) are frequently used tools to reduce negative feelings. While these activities are not addictive for most people, their use may become problematic for a smaller, more vulnerable part of the society, often resulting in the decrease of social interactions and other normal daily activities. Maladaptive coping mechanisms tend to become established habits over time, which are then difficult to overcome.
Researchers at the ELTE Faculty of Education and Psychology, Orsolya Király, assistant professor, and Zsolt Demetrovics, full professor, together with other leading researchers of the field (including Mark D. Griffiths and Marc N. Potenza, honorary doctors of ELTE), made recommendations on the use of information and communications technology (ICT) during the epidemic in the journal Comprehensive Psychiatry.
ICT tools, on the one hand, make possible working and learning from a distance, help access to information and communication with family and friends, but – as the researchers say – they also have inherent risks. Consuming certain contents or carrying out the online activities mentioned above may also lead to serious problems and increase the risk of developing addiction. To prevent these, the researchers
made specific recommendations concerning general lifestyle and Internet usage.
The former group includes, among other things, developing and following a regular schedule, establishing daily routines, regular sleep, appropriate food and fluid intake, using relaxation techniques, keeping in touch with friends and family, making time for self-care, and acquiring authentic information of the epidemic without over-consuming the news.
Specific recommendations for using the Internet include conscious usage, limiting the time spent in front of the screen, managing children’s online presence, and using digital wellbeing tools. It also helps a lot if certain regular activities (such as checking the time) are done on an analogue device (e.g. a watch) instead of a computer. Researchers advise everyone to seek professional help in the case of losing control over the usage of digital devices. According to the authors, it is important to ensure that one does not develop new, unhealthy habits due to the increased usage of digital devices during the lockdown restrictions.
The ELTE Faculty of Education and Psychology takes part in the European Problematic Use of the Internet Research Network COST project. The members of the international cooperation were to meet in Budapest between 16 and 18 March and present their research results in public as part of their annual conference.