A Developmental Social Work Perspective on Problematic Internet Use among University Students
Problematic internet use (PIU) is a growing phenomenon worldwide. Students in higher education especially are a vulnerable group for developing symptoms associated with PIU as a result of the idiosyncratic characteristics of student life. Owing to a lacuna in local social work research on the nature, extent and impact of internet use among students in South Africa, a cross-sectional survey was conducted with 498 (n = 498) second-year undergraduate students at a South African university. The results indicate that students access the internet on university campuses and at home daily through their cell phones and laptops for academic and social purposes. Although the average number of hours spent on the internet per day does not indicate PIU, the findings flag certain symptoms associated with PIU, for example, tolerance, escape from problems, and loss of control. Social workers should not be complacent, but rather introduce services to lower students’ risk of PIU. Considering the country’s adoption of social development as welfare model, developmental social work services on the preventive, early intervention and treatment levels as well as policy development are recommended.