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Preventing problematic internet use during the COVID-19 pandemic: Consensus guidance


Abstract

As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many governments have introduced steps such as spatial distancing and "staying at home" to curb its spread and impact. The fear resulting from the disease, the 'lockdown' situation, high levels of uncertainty regarding the future, and financial insecurity raise the level of stress, anxiety, and depression experienced by people all around the world. Psychoactive substances and other reinforcing behaviors (e.g., gambling, video gaming, watching pornography) are often used to reduce stress and anxiety and/or to alleviate depressed mood. The tendency to use such substances and engage in such behaviors in an excessive manner as putative coping strategies in crises like the COVID-19 pandemic is considerable. Moreover, the importance of information and communications technology (ICT) is even higher in the present crisis than usual. ICT has been crucial in keeping parts of the economy going, allowing large groups of people to work and study from home, enhancing social connectedness, providing greatly needed entertainment, etc. Although for the vast majority ICT use is adaptive and should not be pathologized, a subgroup of vulnerable individuals are at risk of developing problematic usage patterns. The present consensus guidance discusses these risks and makes some practical recommendations that may help diminish them.

Abstract

As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many governments have introduced steps such as spatial distancing and "staying at home" to curb its spread and impact. The fear resulting from the disease, the 'lockdown' situation, high levels of uncertainty regarding the future, and financial insecurity raise the level of stress, anxiety, and depression experienced by people all around the world. Psychoactive substances and other reinforcing behaviors (e.g., gambling, video gaming, watching pornography) are often used to reduce stress and anxiety and/or to alleviate depressed mood. The tendency to use such substances and engage in such behaviors in an excessive manner as putative coping strategies in crises like the COVID-19 pandemic is considerable. Moreover, the importance of information and communications technology (ICT) is even higher in the present crisis than usual. ICT has been crucial in keeping parts of the economy going, allowing large groups of people to work and study from home, enhancing social connectedness, providing greatly needed entertainment, etc. Although for the vast majority ICT use is adaptive and should not be pathologized, a subgroup of vulnerable individuals are at risk of developing problematic usage patterns. The present consensus guidance discusses these risks and makes some practical recommendations that may help diminish them.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
04 Faculty of Medicine > Neuroscience Center Zurich
04 Faculty of Medicine > Center for Integrative Human Physiology
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Clinical Psychology
Health Sciences > Psychiatry and Mental Health
Language:English
Date:12 May 2020
Deposited On:03 Jun 2020 14:03
Last Modified:01 Aug 2020 18:49
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0010-440X
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.comppsych.2020.152180
PubMed ID:32422427

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