European research network aims to tackle problematic internet use



A pan-European network to tackle problematic internet usage officially has been launched with the publication of its manifesto, setting out the important questions that need to be addressed by the research community.

Despite dedicated research leading to some breakthroughs in our understanding of the psychology and biology that underpins these behaviours, we still don’t know enough about the risk factors for problematic internet use
- Sam Chamberlain

As the internet has become an integral part of modern life and its use has grown, so too has its problematic use become a growing concern across all age groups. It has provided a new environment in which a wide range of problematic behaviours may emerge, such as those relating to gaming, gambling, buying, pornography viewing, social networking, ‘cyber-bullying’ and ‘cyberchondria’, which can have mental and physical health consequences.

The newly created European Problematic Use of the Internet (EU-PUI) Research Network was formed in response to the emerging public health importance of problematic internet use and is funded through a €520,000 grant from COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology). The network’s aims include identifying key genetic, psychological and social factors that lead people to disordered online behaviours including excessive video gaming, pornography viewing and use of social networks.

Professor Naomi Fineberg, Consultant Psychiatrist from the University of Hertfordshire and Chair of the new network, said: “Problematic Use of the Internet is a serious issue. Just about everyone uses the internet, but information on problem use is still lacking. Research has often been confined to individual countries, or problematic behaviours such as Internet gaming. So we don’t know the real scale of the problem, what causes problematic use, or whether different cultures are more prone to problematic use than others.”  

The network, which includes 123 experts from 38 countries across Europe, has published its manifesto in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology, setting out the research priorities to help the scientific and clinical communities understand and tackle problematic internet use. These include:

  • Age- and culture-appropriate assessment tools to screen, diagnose and measure the severity of different forms of problematic internet use
  • Understanding its impact on health and quality of life
  • Clarifying the possible role of genetics and personality features
  • Consideration of the impact of social factors in its development
  • Developing and testing effective interventions, both to prevent and to treat its various forms
  • Identifying biomarkers, including digital markers, to improve early detection and intervention

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Image: Keyboard Warrier

Credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge

University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

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