One in six Dutch teens believe they are addicted to social media

Girls more likely to be uneasy if they cannot get online due to fear of missing something important

One out of six Dutch teenagers – nearly 17 per cent – between the ages of 12 and 18 admits to being addicted to social media – "unable to function" without Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Skype or YouTube, according to a new survey by the national statistics office.

Most worryingly in terms of the psychological impact of that addiction, 4 per cent of the teenagers surveyed said they actually preferred digital communication to real-life physical contact.

The problem is considerably more serious among girls, the report indicates. Twenty-two per cent of those surveyed said they believed they were addicted, while, of that number, 14 per cent said they spent five hours or more on social media every single day.

Girls are more likely to become uneasy if they cannot get online, because they are afraid of “missing” something of importance to their friends and becoming marginalised within their own social group.


‘Anxious’ about rejection

Similarly, they are also more likely to become “anxious” about rejection if their posts are not “liked” by their friends and shared with approval among their peers.

Perhaps it was because they were more honest than boys, but girls also attributed poor sleeping patterns, problems concentrating, problems studying and general – rather than specifically attributable – anxiety to their use of social media.

In comparison, 13 per cent of boys admitted they were addicted – while 6 per cent of those admitted being online more than five hours a day. Across both sexes, 47 per cent of those surveyed said they believed social media had had a negative effect of one sort of another on their lives.

Positive aspect

On the other hand, almost half said they believed one of the most positive aspects of social media was that they allowed them to keep in touch more easily with family and friends – especially those who lived in other parts of the world. The majority also said they preferred to have routine personal contact through social media.

Remarkably, given the sophistication of the findings, on average, teenagers seem to believe that social media does not occupy a very important place in their lives. Asked to indicate its importance on a scale of one to 10, the average answer was 6.4. Even for those who said they believed they were addicted, the answer went no higher than 7.7.

Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, the report also revealed that 1 per cent of teenagers between 12 and 18 completely buck the trend and say they do not use social media at all.

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court